Commentary: Cordova Community Foundation receives $1M gift

Cordova. (Dec. 28, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Cordova, Alaska. (Dec. 28, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Cordova has always been a “small but mighty” town that likes to think big. Its railroad days were launched with a million-dollar bridge to the famed copper mine in the Wrangell Mountains. Commercial fishing is supported by Eyak Lake, our million-dollar lake that produces that much sockeye and coho for our fisheries. And now we have a million-dollar gift for our budding Cordova Community Foundation!

An anonymous donor has pledged up to $1 million to the Cordova Community Foundation. This extraordinary gift is being made in contributions over several years and we have already received $400,000 to date. Our excitement, wonder and gratitude are beyond measure. When asked about their choice to give to CCF, the donor’s answer was simple: “Cordova means so much to me, and CCF is a great vehicle to support the interests of the community over the long-term.”

Building the CCF fund can help Cordova become more self-reliant. It is an endowment that will grow in perpetuity, earning compounding gains while lessening the burden of fundraising through traditional means like car washes, bake sales, and spaghetti dinners. Grants are awarded in Cordova, so the money that is donated here stays here and supports our local nonprofits. The CCF Advisory Board has set its sights on raising an endowment of $5 million by 2025. “It is a big, audacious number,” acknowledges Michelle Hahn, CCF Advisory Board Vice Chair. “It’s certainly imposing but we really believe it’s achievable, and we are now 20 percent of the way there thanks to this amazing gift!”

CCF is relatively new, with endowment funds established in 2019, and operates under the fiscal sponsorship umbrella of The Alaska Community Foundation. ACF is able to take care of the nonprofit infrastructure so that the local Affiliate, CCF, can focus on the fundraising and the grant-making here in Cordova. The CCF is made up of two endowments, one for grant-making funds and one for supporting operations (staff and fundraising expenses). To date, the CCF has distributed $25,000 in grants to the Cordova community to a broad range of nonprofits. Some of these funds were from the CCF’s own endowment, and some were awarded to CCF by The Alaska Community Foundation and the Rasmuson Foundation for COVID-19 relief.

Gayle Groff, the CCF’s part-time Program Manager, explained the CCF’s challenge for 2021: “Our generous donor agreed to support the CCF even further by making a second, challenge gift, to encourage others to join in. We could receive up to an additional $100,000 in 2021 if we can match that amount through our fundraising this year.” The CCF Advisory Board is pleased to take on this challenge to continue building the CCF’s endowment for a future of philanthropy in Cordova.


Kristin Carpenter is advisory board chair for the Cordova Community Foundation.