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Raising Money Gets Harder for Community Fund

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – Whether you believe the economy is improving or not, the fact remains that charitable organizations are still needed to provide essential services, and they're having a harder time raising funds to do so.

In Bronxville, Eastchester and Tuckahoe, the Community Fund provides funding and support to local agencies serving the health, education and welfare needs of local residents. For director Melinda Burge, that's a challenging, full-time job.

"Fundraising is tough these days," said Burge, who became involved with the Community Fund three years ago directing its annual golf outing. She took the helm of the organization in July 2010. "Our number of donors has remained the same, but the dollar amount is tracking down slightly."

Founded in the wake of the 1919 flu epidemic, the Community Fund serves as an umbrella fundraising group for the three towns, distributing nearly half a million dollars each year through grants to some 26 organizations and programs. The groups submit applications every January, and a team of evaluators made up of community volunteers goes over the proposals before grants are awarded in May.

"The evaluation process includes site visits and reviews of a group's financials and governance," said Burge. "We do our due diligence to make sure they are a worthy cause with a sound structure."

The Community Fund's involvement doesn't end with the presentation of a check. "All of our agencies become members," said Burge. "We don't just give money, we try to work with them year-round, encourage collaboration and develop relationships." Included in the fund's grants is money to purchase a new ambulance every three years for the Eastchester Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

The fund's two main fundraising vehicles are the golf outing, which will be held this year on May 7 at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, and a direct-mail appeal that begins each October. "Our goal is to raise $550,000 this year," said Burge.

"We had three new programs apply for grants this year," she continued. "We'd love to be able to provide grants to everybody who falls within our parameters."

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