The Island of Altruism

With $777,000 distributed to 29 non-profits, Daniel Island Community Fund wraps up banner year of giving

By Charlie Morrisonreading_web_6inw__2334

If rising property values are any indication, there are some who may define Daniel Island by its wealth. But for island residents and others in the know, the area’s most distinguishing characteristic is not its affluence, but what the community does with it.

Daniel Island is at its core a body of people who in appreciation for their relative good fortune often turn outwards to the concerns of others, giving both money and time to charitable causes. At the center of that body, its very beating heart in fact, is the non-profit of non-profits, Daniel Island’s charity hub, and a fund every island property owner pays into – the Daniel Island Community Fund (DICF). And for that fund, it’s been a banner year.

Daniel Island buzzes with the activity of altruists, givers, and philanthropists, and the DICF and its sister entity, the Daniel Island Community Foundation, have served as the hive around which the island’s charitable busy bees circulate. And if Daniel Island’s altruists are bees with a hive, the queen of the colony is most certainly Daniel Island Property Owners’ Association (DIPOA) Vice President of Community Services Jane Baker, who heads up both the Fund and the Foundation.

According to Baker, she would never have even stepped into her position with the DIPOA were it not for the fact that Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan allowed the former staffer at the City of Charleston the opportunity to take the reins.

When Sloan told Baker she’d have an opportunity to manage all of the community’s philanthropy, she knew it was the right fit for her.

“That was a big hook for me,” Baker said. “…Daniel Islanders are altruistic. They are passionate about their schools, passionate about their parks and playgrounds, and they are passionate about things like breast cancer awareness. These are unique people we have out here and people that all seem to really catch on to why it’s a good thing, not only because philanthropy is just good and right, but it’s good for the community to be seen as giving back as well.”

The Daniel Island Community Fund had a record-breaking year in 2016, reported Baker at the meeting of the Daniel Island Community Association last month. By the end of the year, the DICF will have awarded over $577,000 in grant requests, along with an additional $200,000 in community initiative funding. A total of 29 organizations received funding from the DICF in 2016 (see side box), to the tune of $777,000. That figure represents a nine percent increase over 2015.

Since it was established in 2000, the DICF has distributed $3.3 million in direct grants checks written and handed to nonprofits. Add in the community initiatives portion of their operations and the number exceeds $4 million. The Community Fund continues to get all its funding from a half-percent enhancement fee paid by the buyer of any property on Daniel Island, but the key for the DIPOA, according to Baker, is the efficiency with which they operate.

Master planned communities like Daniel Island or Kiawah Island typically operate a fund such as the DICF. What is atypical is for a community fund to utilize such a large percentage of their funds for charitable giving. Whereas typical master planned communities allocate as much as 70 percent of their respective funds’ monies to capital projects and reserves, Daniel Island has excellent relationships with the municipal and county governments on the island who fill many of those community needs, said Baker.

Thus, for the DICF the ratio is reversed: they give somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of their funds to charities operating on Daniel Island, Wando, Cainhoy, and Huger.

“I think we are able to do that because the POA was managed so well before me,” said Baker. “I inherited a great deal. It’s nothing I’ve been doing…And because we have a relationship with the City of Charleston and Berkeley County, it’s a much different animal.”

For all the success she’s had with the 501(c)(3) Daniel Island Community Foundation, a voluntary non-profit organization, and the sister 501(c)(4) Daniel Island Community Fund, her challenge since taking on the job has been getting the message out to the community at large.

“It has basically been a secret how philanthropic the Daniel Island Community Fund and Foundation are,” she said. “I just don’t think we’ve tooted our own horn enough. We have not done a good job promoting this amazing giving vehicle that we have…Other philanthropy organizations on Daniel Island know us very well, but it’s the average Joe that may have just moved here and may not be engaged yet with philanthropy who is probably in the dark about the good work this does.”

With the 2016 giving year soon to be wrapped up, Baker is focused on not just 2017, but the long-term future of the DICF and Community Foundation. The brainchild of the late Dr. George Brumley, a man Baker called a “fabulous, quiet philanthropist,” and one of the original partners in the Daniel Island Company (and the brother of partner Frank Brumley), the Fund’s and Foundation’s futures will ultimately rest in the hands of Daniel Island’s people.

Baker accepts that a future resident board in charge of the DIPOA could change the original vision for the Fund and Foundation. For her part however, she doesn’t ever want to see that happen.

“It is my absolute hope and desire that this giving carries on in perpetuity,” added Baker. “I really hope that the community has embraced the concept of the Community Fund and Foundation enough to want to keep it going forever, because I think it’s a big part of what makes Daniel Island special.”

Daniel Island Community Fund 2016 Beneficiaries

East Cooper Community Outreach

Operation Home

Rotary Club of Daniel Island

Daniel Island Swim Team

Windwood Farms

Berkeley County Library

Daniel Island School

Susan G. Komen Foundation

Golfers for Education

Lowcountry Food Bank

Young Life

Reading Partners

Philip Simmons Middle School

Shotgun Fairies

Holy Cross Church

East Cooper Meals on Wheels

DI Historical Society

Palmetto Project

Daniel Island Animal Hospital

American Red Cross

Cainhoy School

Children’s Museum

Junior Achievement

Charleston Promise Neighborhood Humanities Foundation

Engaging Creative Minds

Mission Collective

The Music Battery

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