Inland Empire Community Foundation celebrates 80 years of growing regional philanthropy

·3 min read
The Inland Empire Community Foundation began 80 years ago as The Riverside Foundation, created to support Riverside City College students.
The Inland Empire Community Foundation began 80 years ago as The Riverside Foundation, created to support Riverside City College students.

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 more than $130 million 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.”

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.

As the organization’s leader, Decker said the north star she follows is the people and places in the Inland Empire and their needs. It is innovation that makes IECF stand out 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. 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.

Michelle Decker is IECF's president and CEO.
Michelle Decker is IECF's president and CEO.

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 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.”

For more information, visit iegives.org/80th-anniversary.

Inland Empire Community Foundation works to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Inland Empire Community Foundation celebrates 80 years of philanthropy