We, through our elected officials, have at times decided there are some companies and industries so important to the health and safety of the economy that allowing them to fail was simply not an option. The government (we) stepped in and “bailed” them out.

Some communities apply the same “too important to fail” concept to local nonprofits whose work is so important, so vital, that ensuring their long-term stability and growth is priority one. For nonprofits, creating and growing an endowment, invested to provide annual operating support, provides that stability.

That’s why Gettysburg Community Theatre (GCT) Board member Kristine Witherow established the Gettysburg Community Theatre Endowment Fund at the community foundation to support the theater’s ongoing operations. She felt the organization was far too important to rely solely on annual fundraising, so she created an endowment fund designated for GCT.

As the only year-round community theater in Adams County, GCT plays an important role in bringing quality theater arts to the region, all while providing educational, performing, and volunteer opportunities to everyone of all ages and abilities. GCT board members made gifts to create the fund, encouraged others to do the same and the theater includes the designated endowment as a giving option to all patrons. GCT’s designated endowment is invested by the community foundation, and each year 4.5 percent is granted back to Gettysburg Community Theatre for its general purposes.

For Chad-Alan Carr, GCT’s founding executive and artistic director, the Gettysburg Community Theatre Endowment Fund is more than an opportunity for anyone to support GCT for generations: “My hope is that the endowment conveys to the community that GCT is here to stay and we are fully devoted to serving our mission.”

To support that devotion to sustainability, the community foundation created a stretch pool at last year’s Adams County Giving Spree for nonprofits with community foundation designated endowments including Adams County Arts Council, Adams County Historical Society, Warrior Education Fund, Gettysburg Chamber Orchestra, Gettysburg Community Theatre, The Thunderbolt Foundation, SCCAP, Survivors, Totem Pole Playhouse and the YWCA. All offered donors the opportunity to say with a gift to their endowment fund: “You are important to Adams County and we want you around forever!”

The community foundation believes in investing in Adams County by building a permanent civic endowment called The Fund for Adams County. We use the annual proceeds of that fund to support our community grant-making through Adams County Grants.

The community foundation also believes in its own work to expand charitable giving across Adams County. We call our own designated operating endowment the Jack Phillips Founders Fund, a fitting tribute to our late founder and champion.

We believe the quality of our community would suffer greatly without nonprofits many consider indispensable.

Which nonprofits do you think are too important to fail? Which organizations do you think need a designated endowment at the community foundation to help sustain their on-going operations? Let us know.

Contact Ralph Serpe is the president and chief executive officer for the Adams County Community Foundation. He may be contacted at 717-337-0060, or

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