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The Power of an Area of Interest Fund

The area of interest fund, often overlooked compared to the popular donor-advised fund, is powerful in its impact on the community and the fundholder.  

The donor specifies an issue or issues that he would like to support over time, and the Community Foundation applies our community knowledge and leadership to identify worthy grant recipients.  The area of interest fund also offers some flexibility in structure and approach, so we can personalize the fund to the needs and interests of the donor.  For example, area of interest funds can accept IRA charitable distributions, while donor-advised funds cannot. This semi-discretionary approach to grantmaking and the services provided to area of interest funds are at the heart of our work.

After giving through designated funds at LVCF for several years, Barry Kessler expressed an interest in learning about new organizations and particular needs in the Lehigh Valley while remaining involved in the grantmaking process. The Community Foundation had a solution.  

LVCF helped Mr. Kessler establish an area of interest fund, but with a twist. This fund included an opportunity for Mr. Kessler to take a deep dive into one of the community’s most pressing needs by participating in LVCF’s application review process.  

In 2018 the Barry M. Kessler Fund focused its attention on the issue of food and housing access.  Food and housing was one focus area within LVCF’s Igniting Change Fund, a follow-up to our 50th anniversary Spark Grants. Through this platform LVCF sourced high-quality grant applications from a diverse set of organizations serving various aspects of the issue. LVCF’s grant management software made it possible for the full grants committee, including Mr. Kessler, to efficiently and effectively review these individual applications using specific evaluation criteria.  A robust committee conversation followed.

Ultimately the grants committee recommended $50,000 in support of ten organizations best positioned to have a positive impact on food and housing access in the Lehigh Valley.

This fund structure met Mr. Kessler’s interests in leaning on the Community Foundation’s knowledge and expertise to learn more about a particular issue while gaining insight into nonprofits doing good work in that space. 

ASK ERIKA | Ask me how the Community Foundation can help you create a lasting legacy and make a difference in the community....

Erika Riddle Petrozelli, CPA
Associate Vice President for Philanthropy

840 West Hamilton Street, Suite 310, Allentown, PA 18101
610 351-5353   Ext. 13 |