The Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund started in 1946 when family members created the Galveston Fund. It was their belief that money should be set aside to help those in Galveston so that when the need arose, then there would be a vehicle to attend to those in need. The Fund started with a corpus of $50,000 and has grown through wise investing along with additional contributions from family members to over forty million. The name was changed in 1950 to the Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund in order to honor progenitors. Today, the Fund’s Board consists of nine family members along with two outside directors and meets two times a year. The focus continues to be on Galveston Island with 95% of grant funds being distributed here.
The Fund addresses needs in the five broad areas of human services, health, education, arts, and community development including environmental issues and historic preservation. For years the Fund has had a program related investment (PRI) program in place, which provides below market rate loans to non-profits for charitable activities.
In 2010 a small set aside for “green projects” was established; the funds are used for pilot recycling and energy saving projects. And in 2012 a vocational technical scholarship program was started at Galveston College to enhance the educational and employment opportunities for vocational students.
The Kempner Fund is seriously studying mission related investing. The Fund is investigating how it can use some of its corpus to effectively address needs in the Galveston community. In the months to come The Fund will be looking at opportunities to invest its funds so that they might further the Fund’s mission and at the same time help projects in Galveston that might not otherwise be done while still returning a market rate income to the Fund. Since 2009 the Fund has transitioned 37% of its investments to managers that practice socially responsible investing.
The Fund continues to support the intent of its founders with its goal of being there when the Galveston community is in need.
Robert L.K. Lynch