Since joining the Blue Grass Community Foundation (BGCF) in 2009, President and CEO Lisa Adkins has increased the Foundation’s charitable assets by more than 400 percent. Lisa prides herself on leading BGCF’s successful transformation by growing Lexington’s charitable culture, with a focus on building community generosity, vibrancy and engagement.
When Lisa and her family moved from Kansas City to Lexington in 2009, she said that it was serendipitous that the position of president was vacant at the Blue Grass Community Foundation. For thirteen years, Lisa had worked for the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation while her husband, David, served as a Kansas senator.
“It’s fate that my work at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation was the best preparation for serving as president and CEO for BGCF,” she said. “It is a dream come true to further BGCF’s mission by creating generous, vibrant and engaged communities both in Lexington, where the Foundation is headquartered, and in the many great communities we serve across the Bluegrass and Appalachia in Kentucky.”
Lisa also notes that growth doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
“With vision from a great board of directors, engaged donors and highly committed staff with passion and deep expertise, there’s no limit to how charitable our city can become."
During Lisa’s tenure, BGCF has received a number of awards, including Commerce Lexington’s Small Business Nonprofit of the Year (2011), Kentucky’s Innovative Nonprofit of the Year (2012) and the Lauren K. Weinberg Humanitarian Award (2017).
As an attorney, Lisa has been recognized as a leader in growing philanthropic and community engagement, and in 2016, she received the Community Vision Award from the Kentucky Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Besides local and regional accolades, BGCF has also received national recognition. In 2014, BGCF was ranked the fifth most active community foundation grantmaker in the United States.
“We were thrilled, but not completely surprised, to learn that BGCF is among the top five community foundations when it comes to making grants for community good,” Lisa said. “Our mission is to invest in our communities through catalytic grantmaking and strategic community leadership. Our donors are extraordinarily generous, which means we are committed to being the best stewards for the funds our donors entrust to us.”
For more than 50 years, philanthropic individuals, families, businesses and nonprofits have partnered with Blue Grass Community Foundation to create hundreds of charitable funds. As the oldest community foundation in Kentucky, BGCF holds more than $130 million in assets across nearly 600 charitable funds. Blue Grass Community Foundation’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in Lexington, and the broader region, for both today and tomorrow.
“Beyond growing the charitable giving and engagement culture in Lexington, our efforts are centered around downtown and neighborhood revitalization, healthy food access, and thanks to meaningful partnerships with city government, nonprofits, philanthropists and grassroots leaders, we are committed to making Lexington’s downtown more people-focused, welcoming and inclusive,” Lisa said.
With this vision of creating a culture of charitable giving and growing civic engagement, BGCF365 launched in August 2017, at the Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration. Beloved philanthropists John and Donna Hall, who are deeply invested in nurturing the next generation of leaders in Lexington, established the BGCF365 endowment with a gift of $365,000.
“By engaging the emerging generation of civic and philanthropic leaders, BGCF365 is thinking and planning for the future,” Lisa said. “BGCF365, which is like a giving club, offers the opportunity for anyone who cares about Lexington to learn more about grants and charitable giving, and socialize and engage with other forward thinkers.”
BGCF365 connects the next generation of civic and charitable leadership in Lexington. By contributing $1 per day for 365 days (gifting $365 annually), one becomes an active member. Pooled with fellow BGCF365 members, a dollar-a-day commitment compounds, creating a powerful grantmaking engine for nonprofits and civic projects. Half of a member’s daily/annual donation goes to immediate grantmaking while the other half goes to the BGCF365 Endowment, which serves as a perpetual charitable asset and provides additional grantmaking resources for generations to come.
“Charitable giving and civic engagement are equally dear to my heart,” Lisa said. “BGCF365 hits all my sweet spots because it is fun, simple and accessible for all. It gives the next generation of emerging leaders the information and tools they need to engage in effective and rewarding charitable giving.”
As Lisa explained, a misconception of a community foundation is that only high-net-worth individuals can bring an offer to their table. Lisa’s goal is that anyone and everyone who wants to be charitable has the opportunity to do so.
“Bottom line, we are in the business of building a stronger culture of charitable giving, so we want to work with anyone who wants to be charitable,” she said. “When it comes to charitable giving, whether it is individuals, families, nonprofits, businesses or professional advisors, we’re ready to make the most of every gift, large or small.•