inland empire community foundation scholarships

Making Impressions

Inland Empire Community Foundation targets specific needs by designating “signature funds.”

Janice Kleinschmidt Current PSL, Social Scene

inland empire community foundation scholarships

An 80th anniversary deserves more than a tiered cake and a toast of cheer, especially for a nonprofit developing collaborative efforts (particularly with other nonprofits) to strengthen a 27,000-square-mile region through philanthropy. The Inland Empire Community Foundation’s board of directors chose gifts that keep giving: a series of “signature funds” to address pressing regional matters. Several board members seeded funds to support causes especially meaningful to them.

The CIELO Fund

With “cielo” being the Spanish word for “sky,” no one should miss a suggestion that The CIELO Fund’s goals can be called lofty. But the all-caps anagram digs down to its center: Cultivating Inland Empire Latino Opportunity. This fund aims to empower the vast number of Latinos in the Inland Empire by uplifting and investing in organizations and initiatives led by and serving them.

Board member Jesse Melgar, who holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and Chicano studies and a master’s degree in public policy, seeded and chairs this fund.

“As the Latino community grows, so should investments in the people, organizations, and opportunities helping our community thrive,” he says.

Arts for the IE Fund

Ann Sheffer grasps the far-reaching tentacles of art, as well as the importance of philanthropy and civic engagement. Among her litany of official posts are chair of the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission, trustee of Palm Springs Art Museum, and founding chair of Americans for the Arts Action Fund. The Inland Empire Community Foundation board member, who holds a master’s degree in arts administration, seeded and chairs the Arts for the IE Fund.

“Research has shown that early introduction to the arts can help students develop empathy, find ways to express themselves, and approach problem solving through creativity,” Sheffer says. And, she adds, “While the arts bring culture, education, and inspiration to our communities, they are also a key segment of the economy.”

California’s per capita average of government funding for the arts is $3, while the Inland Empire registers a mere 40 cents. This arts fund is designed to increase access to the arts, develop cultural leadership, and help arts organizations advocate for their needs.

Inland Empire Black Equity Fund

In partnership with the Inland Empire Black Equity Initiative and Inland Empire Funders Alliance, the Inland Empire Black Equity Fund — seeded by IECF and The California Endowment — advances the missions of black-led and black-empowering organizations through core support, program and project support, and capacity building. Inland Empire Black Equity members are key decision-makers in the distribution of resources, as it is essential that people most likely to be impacted by this fund are the ones who can best understand the gaps between what is needed, what is being delivered, and what is possible.

The Black Equity Fund began in 2020 with a goal to raise $5 million in two years. IECF’s board chose to boost its recognition and efforts by designating it as a 2021-2022 “signature fund

Salton Sea Community Economic and Environment Fund

Board member Jeremy Hobbs has studied the evaporating Salton Sea for 10 years. The president of Palm Springs-based Western Wind Foundation (whose background includes working with water districts) sees a solution to issues plaguing the massive-but-dwindling body of water as “part of a whole regional change.

“There are a lot of myths about the Salton Sea and what the possibilities are, and sometimes those myths interrupt the ability to make the place livable,” Hobbs says, noting that the millions of dollars spent on the issue (including by the federal government) have yielded no useful results.

“I think it is vitally important that community organizations and environmental groups work together,” he says. “Saving birds [that rely on the sea’s habitat] is not exclusive to improving the lives of children who live next to the sea or building sustainable, strong economic development.”

Hobbs seeded and chairs this fund because he feels passionately about the role environmental issues play in healthy communities.

Journalism and Media Fund

The proliferation of misinformation and disinformation in an era of partisanship and social media-fueled extremism should alarm anyone who cares about the integrity of news resources. Certainly 
it concerns Paulette Brown-Hinds, founder of Voice Media Ventures, publisher of 
Black Voice News, and IECF board chair. 
She has seeded and chairs the Journalism and Media Fund to build and support 
a pipeline of talent for regional journalism and media.

“There is a real need to connect resources and local news organizations who serve the information needs of diverse communities,” says Brown-Hinds, a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

womensgiving fund
Women’s Giving Fund

Like the Black Equity Fund, the Women’s Giving Fund is not new but is being highlighted as an 80th anniversary signature fund. Since 2018, this fund has distributed approximately $60,000 to nonprofits benefitting women and their families. This includes helping women and children transitioning out of domestic violence shelters into their own apartments. IECF’s board vice chair, Nefertiti Long, chairs this fund. Her interest in supporting other women can be seen in her professional memberships in the Alliance of Black Women Accountants and National Association for Female Executives.

“Signature funds” address pressing regional matters.
FRieNDS of Veterans Fund

Added this year to Field of Interest Funds that support vulnerable segments of populations across the region, the FRieNDS of Veterans Fund (the lowercase “ie” emphasizes Inland Empire) offers grants to veterans residing in San Bernardino and Riverside counties whose needs include legal aid, housing, and physical and mental health.

Here for Good Fund

The Here for Good Fund supports IECF operations and helps the foundation provide community leadership on multiple issues. It was established in 1992 and remains vital to ensuring the foundation can achieve its goals. IECF could not put its attention on all the above signature funds without including this one that cements its capacity for success in specific missions.

Learn more about and donate to these funds by visiting or calling IECF at 760-836-2400 (Coachella Valley), 951-241-7777 (Riverside), or 909-644-6221 (San Bernardino).

• READ PART ONE: Inland Empire Community Foundation Effects Long-Lasting Change.