October 29, 2015 by Mary Schenkel
This past year was one of change for the Indian River Community Foundation, beginning in February with the hiring of new CEO Jeff Pickering to replace Kerry Bartlett, who resigned after six years at the helm. Then in August, the organization began moving into its new headquarters in the Oak Point Professional Building.
“We were generously hosted for almost our full history by the McCabe Foundation; we shared office space,” says Pickering, referring to the Robert F. and Eleonora W. McCabe Foundation. “There are lots of generous people giving, but when it comes to understanding the business of philanthropy and investing in professional staff, they get it and I’m very grateful that they’re a partner in the community.”
Born and raised in Winter Park, FL, where his parents, brothers and 89-year old grandmother still reside, Pickering graduated from the University of South Florida before attending graduate school at the University of San Diego. He developed a passion for nonprofits and philanthropy as a lay missionary with the Vincentian Service Corps in New York City, and his most recent position was as CEO of the Kern Foundation in Bakersfield, CA.
Pickering commuted from California as a consultant for five months until fully coming on board in June, when he relocated with wife Stephanie and children Collin, 11, Olivia, 10 and Grant, 2. It’s been a busy summer, getting their own house and the new headquarters in order before the older two headed off to St. Edward’s School and the little one to the Community Church Pre-school.
Of the organization he is quickly getting to know, he discloses that despite its young age, the IRCF is one of the fastest-growing community foundations in the nation. In 2014 it was also the second most active grant-maker among Florida community foundations, with grants equaling $7.8 million. The audited report is due out in November, but preliminary figures indicate record assets of $29.3 million held in 129 donor funds as of June 30, 2015, for fiscal year 2014-15.
“I’m very proud to say that in just seven years, we’ve made grants to the community of more than $30 million,” says Pickering. “Over time, when you get good at making grants, most of which stay right here in Indian River County, you begin to learn about what can affect positive change.”
Increasingly, donors are making provisions in their estate plans to leave a charitable legacy to the IRCF, following the lead of Legacy Society namesake Alma Lee Loy. “We have been and will continue to be in business primarily to help individuals and families to organize and carry out their charitable giving. If we provide them with good service and they trust and value the work that we do for them we earn the privilege, hopefully, to help them create and leave a charitable legacy and we’ll be the stewards of that forever.”
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