November Energy Lunch: Community Foundations + Energy Districts

Max Walker, Green Iowa Americorps

For the November installment of our Energy Lunch, the Winneshiek Energy District hosted MJ Smith, who presented on the mission of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque to strengthen small Iowa communities, particularly for their next generation. MJ is the senior affiliate advisor of this foundation, and has done this work for 15 years.

The mission for the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque (CFGD) was first conceptualized by Dubuque leaders, as they saw the potential the communities of their region had to become high-performing. Today, the CFGD serves a seven county region of northeast Iowa with 250,000 residents. Across their region, they partner with local organizations to fund projects that serve the common good and strengthen the community. Community foundations in Iowa are still fairly new, and they have an interesting background story.

In the early 2000’s, Iowa State University conducted a study around Transfer of Wealth in Iowa. In their research, Iowa State measured the amount of money that leaves small Iowa towns, like Cresco or Elkader, when inherited by heirs living in large cities like Des Moines, Chicago, and even cities on the other side of the globe. Based on this research, the Iowa Legislature passed the Endow Iowa Legislation in 2002. Through this legislation, Iowans could leave a financial gift or their estate as an asset for their hometown and receive a 25% state tax credit in return. 

Rural communities are one main facet of Iowa that the CFGD directs funds and services to because of the broader benefits that are implied in strengthening this community type. One fifth of all US citizens live in a rural area and many of those citizens are experiencing poverty.  For this reason, rural communities are a primary focus for the CFGD in their funding efforts. The CFGD distributes funds to projects that create specific community changes that will have long-lasting benefits, like building more childcare facilities or establishing reverse scholarships for college students who are studying education to support teacher retention.

CFGD has been interested in Energy Districts from their beginning and has partnered with EDs to apply for grants that serve both group’s missions.  Together, Energy Districts and Community Foundations are committed to strengthening communities through keeping local money local.  Whether it is money saved through energy efficiency or money earned at a job made possible by affordable childcare, those funds help our community grow healthier and stronger.

The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque is a northeast Iowa organization that effectively sources and distributes funding and services to build more self-reliant, codependent communities. But word of the foundation’s impact will inevitably extend beyond Iowa, as their multifaceted mission and unwavering work ethic is a clearly effective model for any region motivated by the success of its residents.

View the recording here:

Share this Post