On July 1, the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF) and the Cambridge & North Dumfries Community Foundation (CNDCF) announced that their merger was complete with the launch of the Waterloo Region Community Foundation (WRCF). The organizations first announced their intent to unify their teams and programs in February.
The merged organization will continue to provide granting, impact investing and convening services to charitable and non-profit organizations across the region. The KWCF provided 755 grants totaling more than $4.7 million to 355 organizations in 2021, and the CNDCF provided 500 grants totaling over $690,000 in 2019 and 2020.
The WRCF is interviewing CEO candidates to replace Elizabeth Heald, president and CEO of the KWCF, and Anne Lavender, executive director of the CNDCF. Heald is leaving to pursue new opportunities and Lavender is retiring after more than twenty years of leading nonprofit organizations.
The merger and CEO search are being led by Lori Payne and Mike Bragga, the respective board chairs of KWCF and CNDCF. The announcement included the launch of their new website, and Payne said that their teams have been working hand in hand to make the merger process successful.
Payne said that the merger’s success is the result of more than the two boards working together. They focused on the organizations and communities they serve as the core of the process. Community fund holders, donors, and organizations were involved in the conversations to address any concerns.
“From a unique challenges standpoint, I think it was very much making sure that we didn’t rush. Let’s really talk to the community and talk to the employees. We wanted to hear from them about what makes sense and how we would put it together from their perspective,” Payne said.
“We’ve been getting our ducks in a row in terms of getting together and making things official. It’s a really exciting time,” Payne said.
Bragga said that both foundations have been working collaboratively for the last decade. Talks about merging started moving forward as they worked to support organizations during the pandemic as they managed COVID-19 relief funding in the community.
“It became a natural discussion to say, ‘okay, if we were looking and if we were reimagining this, what could it look like and what would be the best benefit for the community?’ That’s where the discussions in earnest about unification happened. It just seemed like it was the natural next step in our evolutionary process,” Bragga said.
Payne said the merger is an opportunity to build upon the close working relationship the foundations already had in serving the community. She added that they would find that organizations were applying to both foundations and spending time and resources on two application processes.
“They’ll be able to have that streamlined and go through one process. There’s other funding, such as the Investment Readiness Program, that we can now be a one stop shop for the local agencies to be able to access funding and for us to help flow it through as a trusted source for the government in the community,” Payne said.
She added the merged foundation would allow them to make a larger impact on charitable organizations in Waterloo Region through impact investing and convening. Payne said that in addition to funding, the foundation is focused on helping bring local leaders and organizations together to understand the roots of issues that affect things like housing and food insecurity.
“Convening is bringing fund holders together with the community to learn more about what the issues are so that we know where the priorities are to fund in the community,” Payne said.
The merger also increases the position of Waterloo Region in the community foundation community. Bragga said that the WRCF is now one of the largest community foundations in Canada.
“The unified foundation is going to be one of the top ten by assets across the country. It’s going to put Waterloo Region on the map in a different way than ever before. It’s a win for the organizations we fund and our community as well,” Bragga said.
In addition to the organizations that the foundation serves, Bragga said the new foundation would be able to help address changing donor needs. In the last few years, donors have indicated to both foundations that they wanted to see the impact of their donations in their communities.
“By joining forces, we’re going to be able to make a lot more of these impact investments. So not only are they going to be able to contribute dollars into an agency that’s going to house it and steward it in perpetuity, but they’ll see immediate impact by a lot of the investments we’re going to be making in the affordable housing space and the food security space throughout the region,” Bragga said.