BCF’s History and Background

Colonial America re-enactersBermuda has a nonprofit sector of about 600 registered and non-registered charitable agencies.  A substantial obstacle to nonprofits is a shortage of funding.  Individuals are the largest source of charitable giving; however, 56% of households donate less than $500 a year to nonprofits, according to the latest available research.  In the corporate sector, 56% of business donors contribute less than $50,000 annually1. Donors identified housing, crime, drugs and education as Bermuda’s top priorities but with the funding being so fragmented, the full impact of those dollars is not realised.

To tackle the growing funding challenges, increasing social needs and the need for far better administration, evaluation and information on nonprofit sector impact, groups of donors, charity and nonprofit representatives began to seek solutions.  Some additional outcomes emerged as ways to improve how the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors work: 1) access to significant untapped philanthropic dollars; 2) pooling of funds to have greater impact; and 3) reduction in philanthropic administrative costs.

In June 2009, a working committee was established to prepare a high-level analysis on community foundation structures and the feasibility of developing a community foundation in Bermuda. Members were: Danielle Riviere, Programme Manager of The Centre on Philanthropy, Jennifer Ayres, a Centre volunteer, and Myra Virgil of The Atlantic Philanthropies.  The resultant report was informed by extensive consultation sessions, focus groups with two sets of stakeholders, site visits and input from Canadian and US Community Foundation representatives, Alan Pardini and Diana Doyle of Community Planning and Research (CPR) LCC (San Francisco, California), and Stacey Easterling of The Atlantic Philanthropies.  The report:

  • Discussed how a community foundation would impact Bermuda’s charitable sector and improve the way funding needs are assessed and resources are deployed.
  • Proposed operational models and potential organisational structures
  • Outlined a 9-12 month planning process that included
    • Recruit board of directors/governing body
    • Develop governance, administration, grant and programme management systems, and bylaws
    • Develop a mission statement, long-term goals, and strategy
    • Define grant-making guidelines and process
    • Conduct initial marketing
    • Secure lead contributions
    • Set longer-term fund-raising strategies
    • Launch

The report was submitted to the Board of The Centre on Philanthropy, which was designated the fiduciary agent of a planning grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies, to facilitate the process. Believing that the outcomes of the process might influence its own planning and development, The Centre contributed to the planning and feasibility work.  Requests for proposals to support a planning process were sought from November to January 2011, partially based on recommendations solicited from field experts that had been working with a set of community foundations involved with Atlantic’s US Ageing Programme.

In April 2011, capping 18 months of sub-committee and taskforce research, the Bermuda Community Foundation Taskforce contracted with the consulting firm of Sutherland~Edwards, LLC, Consultants to Philanthropy to assess the feasibility of establishing a community foundation for Bermuda. The feasibility study involved a series of one-on-one interviews with approximately 38 stakeholders. Stakeholders represented a cross-section of business leaders, high net worth philanthropic individuals, trust officers and other professionals and nonprofit leaders.

Field interviews were conducted during the week of March 14-21, 2011, using an interview protocol but encouraging open feedback on the feasibility of establishing a community foundation for Bermuda.

In general, there was broad support for the concept of establishing a community foundation for Bermuda. Of the 38 interviewees, 14 of the respondents (37%) were very positive about the concept and sustainability of a potential community foundation.  They said they believed that a community foundation could provide:

  • a great service to the island by pooling resources and engaging donors who otherwise might not yet be involved in philanthropy in Bermuda;
  • a way to tap into new philanthropic markets;
  • a potential benefit to some international corporations and businesses that need, and would like, help with their charitable giving.

Many hoped that the community foundation would help build individual philanthropic giving to match the level of well-established corporate giving in Bermuda. A few saw it as a way to attract donors from the black community, which is perceived as charitable but only to a defined and limited number of organizations. A few interviewees thought that a rational, due diligence process for helping determine where philanthropic grant dollars should go would be an excellent role for a community foundation.

In addition to these responses, another 16 (42%) were also positive about the community foundation but expressed concerns or had questions or issues that they felt needed to be resolved before they would be completely comfortable supporting a community foundation.  Of the remaining respondents, three (3) individuals were “neutral” on the concept, and two (2) were categorised as “skeptical, requiring a great deal of work to be convinced.”  The remaining three (3) interviewees were very negative and saw no benefit in establishing a community foundation for Bermuda citing concerns about loss of donors’ direct contact and control of their funds, potential for high fees and costs to operate a permanent charitable fund and concerns about board governance, structure and composition.  Combined, these last three groups represented 21% of the total number of interviewees.  In summary, nearly 80% of respondents viewed the creation of a community foundation favorably and expressed appreciation for the many benefits a community foundation would bring to bear to support donors and nonprofit organizations in Bermuda.

Based on these findings an enhanced taskforce was formed in late 2011, led by Graham Pewter with Myra Virgil, Brian Madeiros, Amanda Outerbridge, Peter Durhager, Nikkita Scott, Michael Brace, Dominic Powell, Peter Pearman and Gil Tucker as advisors.

In 2012, with a view to forming a founding Board of Directors for Bermuda’s first community foundation, the taskforce formalised as a steering committee, chaired by Peter Durhager with members being Myra Virgil, Amanda Outerbridge, Nikkita Scott, and Michael Brace.  Brian O’Hara joined the steering work in late 2012.  The team began assessing:

  • the extent to which a core group of early investors would commit to leading the effort to rollout and, eventually, help develop plans for sustaining the community foundation over time
  • whether potential donors—including corporations, banks, individual philanthropists, estate planners, and others — would use the community foundation to oversee and manage their charitable contributions
  • primary initial roles of the foundation in the larger community, i.e.,  a donor support organization, a community convener and problem-solver or both.
  • unmet needs, gaps, or opportunities in which private funding and philanthropic leadership could play a particularly important role
  • the most promising set of financing and recurring income strategies for sustainability.

The Bermuda Community Foundation became a legal entity on January 31st, 2013

Request a copy of our feasibility study at info@bcf.bm

1 Donor Forum Giving Survey 2008