A Blossoming Legacy in the Ozarks

RSC congratulates the Community Foundation of the Ozarks on their 50-year anniversary

May 25, 2023 |

This past spring, 50,000 daffodils bloomed in more than 40 rural communities across central and southern Missouri as part of an effort to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

Rural community foundations are often places where caring people and organizations come together to support local needs, and develop local assets for local solutions. Since its inception in 1973, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO), our longtime partner and Missouri Ozarks Hub lead, has done just that by providing philanthropic leadership to build stronger communities in central and southern Missouri.

First supported by then-Springfield Mayor Jim Payne and businesswoman Anne Drummond, the CFO is now governed by community volunteers and run by a professional staff that serves a network of donors, regional affiliate foundations, nonprofit partners and professional advisors through approximately 3,500 charitable funds. 50 years later, CFO continues to support their community by helping individuals and organizations accomplish their goals by facilitating charitable giving, scholarships and grantmaking.

Many of the funds set up through the foundation have since outlasted their donors and continue to bloom, spread, and grow- which is why CFO President Brian Fogle believes planting daffodils was the perfect way to celebrate CFO’s 50 year anniversary.

CFO President Brian Fogle

He states, “When spring came…daffodils started coming up in a field next to us. Multitudes of them. [My roommate] explained that the field used to be a farm, and the homestead was formerly in that field. The daffodils outlasted the family that once lived there, and the abode where they resided. Despite the changing world all around, they just kept spreading, growing and blooming.

I can’t think of a better symbol for our 50th anniversary. Most of the original founders of our organization no longer walk this earth, but their legacy continues. Many of the funds set up have long outlasted their donors and continue to bloom, spread and grow — brightening our region with scholarships and grants to help others.”

In a press release announcing the anniversary celebrations, CFO elevated five core programs that "illustrate how the CFO has carried out its mission of enhancing the quality of life
for the region through resource development, grantmaking, collaboration and public leadership:"

Developing Rural Philanthropy: In 1993, Nixa leaders approached the CFO to replicate its model using local volunteer leaders with CFO staff administrative support. The Nixa Community Foundation’s affiliate model has been replicated in 52 other cities, counties and regions. From this network, the Rural Schools Partnership was created in 2010 to strengthen schools as anchors of rural communities, including its nationally recognized Ozarks Teacher Corps scholarship program.

Building Nonprofit Capacity: Grantmaking and scholarships are two of the CFO’s highest-profile areas. About 90% of these resources stay in Missouri. Whether recommended by donor advisors or included in annual competitive cycles, grants are made to organizations holding nonprofit or similar IRS status. In 2010, the CFO started emphasizing nonprofit partnerships through investment and administrative services, education and technical support. Strong nonprofits use grant dollars most effectively.

Responding to Emergency Needs: Since helping in Stockton after the May 2003 tornado, the CFO has responded to natural disasters in Joplin, Branson and south-central Missouri with technical assistance and grants to nonprofits that directly serve those affected. Emergency grantmaking has supported the region through the Great Recession, the COVID-19 pandemic and specific needs such as cold-weather crisis shelters.

Expanding Resources: A pillar of the CFO’s mission is collaboration, a trait long considered a regional strength. Collaboration reduces duplication of effort and builds consensus on shared priorities. In addition to convening local funders around key issues, the CFO also expands regional resources by serving as the “boots on the ground” for state and national funders.

Investing for Impact: A below-market mission-related loan program creates a “double-bottom line” by providing gap financing for projects such as a storm shelter, hospital equipment and a school HVAC system. The CFO seeds efforts like Restore SGF to increase home ownership in Springfield and is an original funding partner of the Community Focus Report for Springfield & Greene County.

“With more than a half-billion dollars out the door in a half century and assets exceeding $400 million today, it’s exciting to think about what the next 50 years will bring in our continued commitment to place-based philanthropy,” Fogle says.

Rural Schools Collaborative is privileged to have worked alongside the Foundation through collaborative work on sharing innovative place-based best practices and resources for asset development in rural communities, and is proud to have Brian Fogle serve on our Board of Directors.

RSC congratulates CFO on 50 years, and wishes the foundation many more years to come.

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