Editorial | Waccamaw Community Foundation marks 15 years of philanthropy to Grand Strand

David Bishop, board chairman and interim executive director of the Waccamaw Community Foundation, continues the philanthropy of his late father, but he is eager to relinquish his day-to-day operational role.

Bishop was a founding board member of the two-county philanthropic foundation and served as its first executive director after the nonprofit was founded in February 1999. He has served on the board for 14 years, stepping down for a year after three, three-year terms. Attorney Jonathan Kresken was the executive for eight and a half years, followed by Kif Cook for 16 months. “We are currently looking for a new executive director,” Bishop says.

“My father instilled philanthropy in my mind; his example taught me about giving back to the community.” Not long after George Bishop’s passing, about 40 people from various segments of the community met to discuss forming a philanthropic foundation. From that, a board of directors was formed of community leaders in Georgetown and Horry counties.

“Initially, we had to look to the board members for financing,” Bishop recalls. From that somewhat modest beginning, Waccamaw Community Foundation total assets have grown to almost $21 million – $20,928,446.78 as of Dec. 31, 2013. The assets fueled $1.51 million in grants in 2013. Typical grants or disbursements are $3,000 to $4,000 to as high as $50,000. The minimum disbursement is $100. Grants from 2004-2013 totaled $13.8 million.

George Bishop moved to the area in 1964 and started Waccamaw Brick Co. and Waccamaw Pottery. “My dad moved here from Columbia because of the clay deposits along the Intracoastal Waterway.” The clay pits (mines) were south of U.S. 501 and the brick factory was on the north side of the highway. The brick-making firm was sold in 1994 to Palmetto Brick Co. which continues to manufacture bricks in Cheraw.

The $21 million plus in assets represent 128 donors, including individuals and other nonprofits. Among the latter is the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which serves communities once home to Knight-Ridder newspapers such as The Sun News. River Read in Conway received a Knight grant.

There are two types of accounts, non-endowed and endowed, with recommended minimum totals of about $10,000. Bishop says “we suggest in that range” for the best impact. Donors decide how they want the money disbursed. Grants may go to scholarships, or no-kill animal shelters — whatever donors have designated. Endowed funds are disbursed at 4 percent of the total.

Many of the accounts fund scholarships – $50,000 to Horry County high school students in 2013, nearly all recipients attending colleges in South Carolina. “Literacy Alive’’ was an initative of WCF, with $25,000 grants for three years. “We’re trying to find another nonprofit that can move it forward. We’re not geared to run nonprofits. We like to come alongside, get it started, then turn it over.’’

“We are a philanthropic organization. We are here to help donors be more efficient for the long term,” Bishop says. WCF collects a $250 annual fee or 2 percent for its operating budget of $280,000. Bishop says the so-called Great Recession of 2008 “did affect us … not only was giving down but invested funds received a lower return … but we have recovered from that.”

“We try to make it affordable for everyone.”