IECF Riverside Corporate Office

When Charles Brouse established The Riverside Foundation to support Riverside City College students, he might not have imagined what the organization would become. Known today as Inland Empire Community Foundation (IECF), the organization manages over $130M in assets and 397 funds. In addition to continuing its initial mission of facilitating scholarships for local students, IECF has grown to support nonprofit organizations and communities throughout Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

“I love knowing IECF started with just one person, and then a few more, who had a vision of bettering students in Riverside,” the organization’s President and CEO, Michelle Decker said. “We forget that sometimes it really starts with an idea.”

Michelle Decker, President & CEO

In celebration of its anniversary, IECF introduced a slate of Signature Funds which each have a goal of raising $80,000 in their inaugural year. These funds, founded by board members and donors were each launched with an idea and a vision to address pressing local needs. They include a Latino empowerment fund called CIELO, a new Journalism and Media Fund, the Salton Sea Fund, Arts for the IE Fund and others. Decker wonders in the coming decades, what these funds might achieve as well.

As the organization’s leader, Decker said that the north star she follows is the people and places in the Inland Empire and their needs. It is innovation that makes IECF standout as a community foundation and this innovation is driven by strong partnerships with nonprofits and donors. To Decker, that means the region and the people IECF works with are what make the organization special.

IECF is well-known to local nonprofits and students, and it has awarded more than $159 million in grants and scholarships over its history. IECF holds many funds that have distributed grants aligning with the original founders’ interests, and also works to react to urgent and unexpected community needs.

Courtesy of Family Service Association

“More than 13,000 Inland Empire residents are comprehensively served each year through our senior meals, behavioral health services, child development services and programs for child abuse prevention and treatment,” said Cheryl-Marie Hansberger, CEO of the Moreno Valley-based Family Service Association. “We are grateful for IECF’s leadership, expertise and collaboration that strengthens our region.”

Faced with a crisis, the organization opened the IE COVID-19 Resilience Fund, quickly responding to assist nonprofits struggling on the front lines to serve their communities. IECF sees itself as a foundation that belongs to the people and organizations of the Inland Empire and many nonprofit organizations embrace this.

“Throughout the years, IECF has been a steady and reliable partner,” said Tom Snyder, CEO of Animal Samaritans. “They’ve championed our cause and introduced multiple foundations to our organization.”

Courtesy of Animal Samaritans

IECF understands that community needs will be an ever-changing landscape and plans to continue its focus on growth, regional impact, and racial, gender and economic equity. Its leadership and Board of Directors strive to be trusted partners and to provide support to philanthropists who have a vision for the future and want to create a fairer IE. The organization looks forward to the ways it might help shape a stronger Inland Empire in the next 20 years.

Individuals and businesses wishing to support any of IECF’s 80th Signature Funds can visit the organization’s website, find a fund that matches their philanthropic interests and donate through the site. Donations can also be mailed. IECF welcomes any size of donation and can also help with the donation of complex assets or with the launch of new funds aligning with the founder’s interests.

“Philanthropy isn’t a word only meant for a few with great wealth,” Decker said. “Americans are givers, especially those who see the needs every day in their own communities. I hope that we can build a culture of philanthropy in the IE that embraces the beautiful diversity of the region.”

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This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise and the Desert Sun, August 2022.

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