Overlooked No More: A New Community Foundation for Northern Kentucky

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In the Southeast lately, lots of new foundations have been popping up thanks to hospital mergers and acquisitions. But health legacy foundations aren’t the only newcomers to the ever-growing philanthropy scene in this region. The latest new funder to get on our radar is the Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky (HCFNK). Quite a few local business and civic powerhouses got together to establish this charitable foundation, for a region that’s largely been underserved.

The new community foundation is focused on poverty, arts, education, health, and community development. And the geographic reach of these grants will include Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties in Kentucky.

An impressive mix of big shots and former big shots of major corporations are helping develop and direct HCFNK, including the current and retired CEOs of the E.W. Scripps Co. and the CFOs of The Kroger Co. and Proctor and Gamble Co. There’s a lot of corporate power behind this foundation, with involvement from Bexion Pharmaceuticals and Duke Energy Kentucky as well. For the past 18 months, the founders have been inviting trustees to join them and have been working out the details.

The retired president of Northern Kentucky University, the retired CEO of the Bank of Kentucky, and a judge executive from Kenton County are also on the council of trustees. Nancy Grayson is the organization’s first president, and previously, she worked as the director of strategic initiatives at the Northern Kentucky Education Council.

“This fund will provide our community with a philanthropic partner which can convene, consolidate and encourage charitable giving in a tax advantaged manner,” said one of the founding trustees, Bob Zapp. “By bringing together those with a philanthropic interest we can better influence and support our growing Northern Kentucky region.”

HCFNK is the first organization of its kind in Northern Kentucky and targets an area that has been long overlooked by regional funders. Many foundations that focus on Southeast giving don’t look as far north as Northern Kentucky. Meanwhile, founding council member Bill Butler estimates that although Greater Cincinnati groups pull in about $675 million of annual support, only about $15 million of that finds its way to Northern Kentucky. It's in a unique geographic area that no one has been claiming—until now. 

“Northern Kentucky’s social needs and demands are relatively the same (as Cincinnati), but the resources we require to meet those needs in our community are simply not there,” Butler said. “This provides a vehicle for all the people to come together and do something as a community to make significant change here.”

Something else notable about this new regional foundation is that it’s aiming to mobilize donors at a range of levels. HCFNK isn’t meant to be a place for the very few, very wealthy to do their giving. Instead, it’s looking for residents of all backgrounds to contribute whatever they can to support their community. This is is another effort to expand the reach of donor-advised funds, which are an accessible and flexible means to put aside and deploy charitable dollars no matter what one's level of giving. 

As a brand-new philanthropic entity, HCFNK seems to be most focused on making its presence regionally known and securing donors right now. There is not yet any information for grantseekers on the new funder’s website about how to apply for grants.

But stay tuned, because given the people calling the shots here, it’ll be very interesting to see who the first grants go to and how much local groups will get. Horizon Community Funds is based in Covington, Kentucky, and you can keep up with foundation updates by following its news section.