The High Meadows Fund – A Review from 2004 to 2010
Carl and Judy Ferenbach established The High Meadows Fund in 2004 as a supporting organization of the Vermont Community Foundation. At that time the Ferenbachs’ charitable giving was focused on advocacy for the environment, support for children and youth, education in the crafts, rural health, and educational institutions. They established a fund under the umbrella of the Vermont Community Foundation because of VCF’s potential as a knowledgeable and engaged partner to inform and guide effective grantmaking. Because VCF could add particular value to giving within Vermont, a separate High Meadows Foundation was established for giving outside the state.
Over the next few years the High Meadows Fund narrowed its focus to environmental grantmaking directed at reducing the use of fossil fuels and promoting sustainable agriculture and land conservation in Vermont. Giving directed to children passed to the Permanent Fund for the Well-Being of Vermont Children, a separate supporting organization on whose board Carl and Judy served until 2009.
From its inception through the end of 2010, the High Meadows Fund has made grants totaling $5.4 million. High Meadows paid out grants totaling $600,250 in 2009 and $425,750 in 2010. The budget for grantmaking in 2011 is $600,000.
When High Meadows began its grantmaking, the Board sought out organizations and individuals who were respected as thought leaders and who were working in HMF’s fields of interest. The Board met with potential grantees at their sites, and convened with leaders to discuss effective approaches to promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and land conservation.
As the Board gained experience with philanthropy in Vermont, Board members determined they wanted a more strategic approach to grantmaking, especially focusing on energy initiatives that could have a statewide impact and giving more emphasis to determining the outcomes of their grantmaking. In 2009 High Meadows hired its first Executive Director.
Beginning in 2010, the board has focused proactively on how to reduce Vermont's reliance on imported fossil fuels to keep our buildings comfortable. We have commissioned research and we have convened practitioners, policy makers and advocates to help us better understand how to overcome barriers to making homes and community buildings more energy efficient. In addition, we are supporting initiatives that we believe will create new opportunities to improve the efficiency of in Vermont's buildings and to use sustainably harvested renewable resources to keep the buildings warm in the winter.
As the High Meadows Fund articulates its mission and strategy for grantmaking going forward, the Board recognizes the fluidity of this process. We intend to review our objectives annually, leave room for the new and unexpected each year, and use what we learn to influence broader policy in our fields of interest.