Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

Wilson Foundation Calls on Community Foundation for Advice [Buffalo Business First]

Jul 29, 2015 | Posted in News

Buffalo Business First - July 29, 2015:

By: Tracey Drury
Buffalo Business First Reporter

Local foundation executives could play a role in helping the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation determine how it will award grants from its $1.2 billion asset base.

Trustees announced Wednesday a list of partner institutions that will work with the foundation, which received a windfall late last year after the death of Wilson, longtime owner of the Buffalo Bills. The funds came from the $1.4 billion sale of the Bills last year.

Last week, the foundation said it had set a 20-year time frame to distribute the late Ralph Wilson’s irrevocable trust and related investment income. Grantmaking is slated to begin in 2016.

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan will provide local insight and help the Wilson Foundation make connections with other regional grantmakers.

With assets exceeding $320 million, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo is among the region’s largest foundations, managing endowments and private charitable funds for hundreds of organizations. The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan manages about $615 million in assets.

Both have served as change agents in their communities, awarding grants but also working with other foundations on larger collaborative efforts.

Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, president and CEO at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, said the work will involve connecting people, ideas and resources to improve lives in Western New York - the very things the foundation does as part of its mission.

“We work with individuals, families, foundations and organizations to help them with their philanthropic objectives and that’s the description of the services we will be providing to the WIlson Foundation at a high level,” she said. “They anticipate we will play a more direct role in administering grants for them and in managing endowments for some of their grantees, the full suite of services we offer.”

Dedecker said already the Wilson Foundation trustees have demonstrated they want to get a better understanding of the collaborative efforts already underway in Western New York, including ongoing public-private partnerships and how existing organizations are working across sectors to solve community problems.

“It’s been a joy working with the Wilson trustees,” she said. “They are approaching this extraordinary legacy with great thoughtfulness and care and we are indeed blessed in this community that we have these individuals as the stewards for this legacy. Their thoughtfulness and thoroughness is truly remarkable.”

The Wilson Foundation is also relying on lots of high-level investment and management assistance: J.P. Morgan’s Philanthropy Centre and Private Foundations Service team has been hired to help trustees and future staff develop grant procedures, analyze performance of grantees and complete post-grant contract compliance work, while Koya Leadership Partners will help recruit a president to lead the foundation.

Plans also call for using an outsourced chief investment officer model to invest and manage the foundation’s assets. Three firms have been hired, with each firm acting independently as a fiduciary and managing a separate pool of the foundation’s assets: J.P. Morgan, the Northern Trust Co. and Graystone Consulting, a business of Morgan Stanley.

Also on the payroll is Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, which helped develop the mission statement and are helping to formulate strategies designed to accomplish the goals set forth in the mission statement.

Mary Wilson, Ralph Wilson’s widow, said in a statement each of the partner institutions were selected after a due diligence process, and with the short 20-year giving window in mind.

“We are mindful of the short life of the Foundation and do not take lightly the trust that Ralph placed in us to be stewards of this part of his legacy,” she said. “We are confident that these partners will help us establish and guide the Foundation to make a lasting and sizable impact that is fitting of the great man who made it all possible.”
The renewed mission of the foundation will be to invest primarily in the improvement of the quality of life of the people of Western New York and Southeastern Michigan, two regions it calls near and dear to Mr. Wilson’s heart throughout the course of his life.

Founded by Wilson in 1954, the Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.-based foundation has awarded millions in grants in recent years, including $1.3 million in fiscal 2012. Several health-related entities in Buffalo have been past recipients of the foundation’s generosity, including the Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at the University at Buffalo, which received $1 million; Roswell Park Cancer Institute, which received a $1 million commitment for its Clinical Sciences Center; and Kaleida Health, which received a $1 million commitment to support adult day care and home care programs. The Say Yes Buffalo program received a $100,000 grant in 2013, the only grant awarded that year, according to tax filings.

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