Story & Illustration by Trong Mai

Photos by Wilson Hui and Audrey La

Waco Foundation supports long-term success for other nonprofits

Among the numerous nonprofits working to create a better Waco, the Waco Foundation prides itself in working behind the scenes rather than taking the forefront. The organization was established in 1958 and is dedicated to strengthening the Waco community through supporting nonprofit organizations across McLennan county. 

The foundation provides a wide variety of services ranging from managing charitable assets, providing grants to nonprofits in the county, hosting workshops and trainings that aim to bolster an organizations’ board and staff.

Natalie Kelinske is the director of communications and donor services at Waco Foundation graduated from Baylor majoring in journalism. Kelinske spends her days maintaining relationships with philanthropists and acts as Waco Foundation’s public relations.

“We really answer to the entire community. We see ourselves as a neutral partner to our nonprofit organizations,” Kelinske said.

 Waco Foundation deviates from the stereotypical nonprofit in that they do not utilize volunteers. Rather than directly servicing the community, the foundation manages funds for other nonprofits and supports the work they do by providing them with helpful resources. From grants that allow for the purchase of new equipment, such as computers, or trainings that teaches nonprofits how to successfully create an infrastructure that is essential to expanding their reach in the community.

“We have funds that are designated for the charities that have put the money here for an endowment to support their cause, and then we have another set of money here that donors overtime have given to that supports our grant making, our competitive grant making. It supports the work we do around race equity, around early childhood and leadership development,” Kelinske said. 

The staff at Waco Foundation are paid staff who get paid through a separate fund set up specifically for them. In addition to juggling the myriad of services they offer to nonprofits; the organization aims to build lasting relationships with philanthropists and donors.

“The foundation is designed to exist in perpetuity. When we’re talking about legacy really the foundation is a legacy partner for people and institutions,” Kelinske said.

Waco Foundation creates an annual report every year that describes the organization’s utilization of monetary funds as well as to update and thank donors and the community for the money they raised. 

The Animal Birth Control Clinic dedicates itself to providing low prices for medication and procedures to reduce the financial burden on pet owners in Waco. The organization was established in 1988 and continues to thrive due to the support from the community and the assistance from Waco Foundation.

“I can’t imagine doing this work without them,” executive director of the Animal Birth Control Clinic Carrie Kuehl said.

The Animal Birth Control Clinic is only one of many nonprofits in town that has been touched by the Waco Foundation. ABC provides procedures such as neutering, rabies shots or long-term heartworm treatments are significantly cheaper than the prices at other veterinary clinics.

“They have taught me 90 to 95 percent of what I know and the growth the clinic has experienced and the growth I have experienced professionally and personally can be attributed to Waco Foundation and the other foundations in town,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl started working at ABC 13 years ago and has been working with the foundation for about 15 years. When she first started, Kuehl estimated the clinic only provided about five surgeries a day, one day a week and currently the clinic performs roughly 46 surgeries per day, five to six days in the week.

“They have trained us to operate sustainably… and we have to run it sustainability so that it’s here for the community no matter what and doing that responsibly comes from training from the Waco Foundation,” Kuehl said.

The growth ABC has experienced can be attributed partly through time, but Kuehl revealed that before working with Waco Foundation ABC did not have an executive director or an administrative staff and nearly 13 years later, ABC continues to be one of Waco’s most prominent nonprofit organizations.

“This is my 11th year, when I came (to the Family Abuse Center) our budget was something like $600,000-$700,000 and now we’re over two million. I can absolutely, without blinking, assure you that there is no way this organization would have a budget of that size and have the broad services we provide in this community if we didn’t have the capacity building expertise and consulting that we get from the Waco Foundation,” executive director of the Family Abuse Center, Kathy Reid said.

The Family Abuse Center is a nonprofit in McLennan County that has also attributed their growth and success to the Waco Foundation. The Family Abuse Center focuses their work around helping families recover and work through domestic violence. Like Waco Foundation, the Family Abuse Center also offers a multitude of services all aimed to assisting victims of domestic violence.  

“Waco Foundation is doing the work now to create a brighter future for all Wacoans and all of McLennan County, so I think that our board and staff have that long-term mentality and perspective,” Kelinske, said. 

The growth ABC and the Family Abuse Center have achieved does not happen overnight and Kelinske, along with the other staff at Waco Foundation are committed to leaving a legacy by equipping other nonprofits the tools they need to survive against time.

Aside from their ventures in leadership training and consulting, Waco Foundation also collaborates with other foundations and institutes throughout McLennan County and unites their efforts to create more opportunities to educate nonprofit staff.

“We partner with the Racial Equity Institute, they come in we are working to train community leaders, community members and the nonprofit sector. It’s a two-day training that they provide and it’s really sort of about how the history of race and racism is so systemic so it’s involved in every system that we really have as a society and how that continues to play a role today,” Kelinske said. 

At these trainings the Waco Foundation is intentional on who is invited to participate. Community leaders are invited to come and learn, but the foundation also wants to give minorities a safe space and a chance to voice their opinions. 

Overall, the work Waco Foundation does is not only for the immediate resolution of community problems, but foresight in preventing new problems as well. The Waco Foundation actively works towards leaving their own legacy through the long-term success of the nonprofits they support.

“We know that it may take us years and years and years to realize the fruits of our labor that’s going on now, but when you have forever to work with, that’s okay, so our board and staff and our supporters are all on the same page and are comfortable with doing some hard work now so that we’re improving quality of life for future generations,” Kelinske said.