Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The San Antonio Area Foundation has awarded six area nonprofits a combined total of $3 million to build new training centers, exhibition space, school programs, a commercial kitchen, a recording studio, and playing fields that will be named to honor its largest donor in history.
The grants are part of the $20 million that will be awarded from the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation this year. Area Foundation President and Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Brune and Santikos Enterprises representatives presented the awards to recipients starting Aug. 6.
The gift comes at a time when the Area Foundation is refining its focus areas for all its giving, a task made necessary in part by the game-changing Santikos gift that has pushed the foundation’s total grant-making funds to unprecedented levels.
Recipients of this year's capital naming rights gift include Hill Country Daily Bread Ministries which received $500,000 for a training center with a commercial kitchen, and Texas Public Radio which will use the $750,000 for its new home at Alameda Theater.
The Boys & Girls Club of San Antonio received $500,000 for an Eastside youth park; the San Antonio Botanical Garden Society $500,000 for a new event lawn called the John L. Santikos Fountain of the Ferns; the Alamo Colleges District/San Antonio College $500,000 for its John L. Santikos Micronauts program, and CAST Tech High School $250,000 to renovate a vocational building.
Projects are required to present a significant naming rights opportunity for John Santikos, and requests were limited to renovation, restoration, construction, acquisition and expansion projects, or programs.
Angie Mock, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club San Antonio, said the funds will complete a recreation project at the Eastside Youth Development Park.
"What this gift allows us to do is finish out the full scope of our vision, which is to surround the fields with a walking track with exercise stations that not only Boys & Girls Club members can use, but they can enjoy that with their families,” Mock said.
During the 2018 grant process, the Area Foundation received 122 applications from area charitable organizations totaling $96 million in funding requests. Early on in the process, Brune said, the stack of applications was narrowed to 25 applications and then nine before the foundation selected the final six. The grants are not intended to fund the entire amount of a project budget, but they help the nonprofits complete projects.
Brune said the capital gifts are one important way the Area Foundation honors the legacy of John L. Santikos, who gifted his $605 million theater business and real estate investments to the community foundation upon his death in late 2014.
That gift raised the organization’s assets to nearly $1 billion, making it the 19th-largest community foundation by assets in the nation. (The only other Texas-based organization with larger assets is the Communities Foundation of Texas, which serves North Texas and ranks 15th.)
Capital naming rights gifts from the Santikos Charitable Foundation are made every other year and started in 2016 with grants to eight health and human services-related organizations totaling $9.3 million. Variable dividends from Santikos investments and theater proceeds fund the causes the late John Santikos cared about most – people in need, health, youth and education, and arts and culture.
“The grant dollars that are distributed to the community are a function of the dividends we get – the interest that is earned [from investments],” Brune said. “While the gift is sizable, we’re just like any shareholder in a company. We’re going to get earnings at the end of year from those investments.”
When the gift was first made, Brune added, some cash came along with the trust that was set up, so the first few gifts made from the Santikos funds were very large. “Moving forward, there was always the intention that we would receive the annual dividends” and make grants from those dividends.
Throughout the year, the foundation makes other awards funded by the Santikos gift to nonprofits working in arts and culture, high school completion, the community at-large, children and youth services, and medicine and health care.
Santikos grants are also distributed through collaborations with other local funders, such as the City of San Antonio or the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, and for urgent needs and natural disaster assistance, like the Mayor's Hurricane Relief Fund established after Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of the state in 2017.
Santikos monies also support an Area Foundation initiative known as SALSA, Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio.
Brune, named president and chief operating officer in January 2017, has been serving as the interim CEO since Dennis Noll retired at the end of last year. The search for a new CEO began in May with a committee of board members and community partners interviewing candidates in recent weeks.
Last year, the community foundation also engaged FSG Social Impact Consultants to help evaluate and modify the strategies of its Grants, Programs and Services department, a team that evaluates and awards grants. Based on recommendations from FSG, donors, and other stakeholders, the grants office has been renamed Community Engagement & Impact (CE&I).
“The words ‘community engagement’ reflect that it’s much more of a partnership in community – it’s not only being aware of needs but having an opportunity for feedback and engagement from the nonprofit sector,” Brune said. “The 'impact' word illustrates this intentionality of alignment to the SA2020 effort as well as the evaluation and metrics and measurement piece. It’s not anything drastically different from what we’ve done before but very much taken some intentionality to align and weave those pieces together.”
The department will focus its giving portfolio more on these four “buckets” – youth success, successful aging, cultural vibrancy, and livable and resilient communities – and how the Area Foundation can play a role in filling those needs, Brune said. In those areas, the foundation will pay out some gifts over several years, and group nonprofits together according to giving focus, allowing them to learn from each other.
“We granted $33 million last year, and that’s a significant investment," she said. "So how can we use this opportunity to demonstrate to those donors how their investment is impacting the community? It’s about, as a whole, looking at all of our grant-making and being able to educate and inform donors and show them how their investment is making a difference in the community.”
The new focus and model of giving will officially launch in January 2019, but the foundation already has been working to inform grant seekers. Changes to the process will not be significant, Brune said.
“We have made modifications and tweaks," she said. "It’s nothing we haven’t been doing already, it’s just a different way. We’re being more intentional, going deeper, wrapping resources around them to ensure they are successful – it’s all good news.”
The next round of the John L. Santikos capital naming rights grant application process opens in 2020.