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 three times a year. The focus continues to be on Galveston Island with 95% of grant funds being distributed here. Since Hurricane Ike, the Fund has exceeded it 5% required distributions because of the severe need in the community and has continued with extra matching programs for donations made by the family and directors to Galveston non profits. The intent of the founders was to help those in need when occasions arose, and it certainly did after Ike.
The Fund continues to address needs in the five broad areas of human services, health, education, arts and historic preservation and community development including environmental issues. For years the Fund has had a program related investment (PRI) program in place, which benefited many non-profits after the storm. At that time many non-profits had to have a source of dollars for repairs before they could submit for reimbursement for federal support. The Fund loaned more than $1.2 million through this program. To be even more responsive in the event of another disaster the Fund has signed a memorandum of agreement with the Galveston County Recovery Fund and has agreed to set aside $50,000 each year; these funds along with more from other foundations and entities in Galveston will be available immediately to non-profits should they need help after a federally declared disaster.
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.
The Fund continues to support the intent of its founders with its goal of being there when the community is in need.
Robert LK Lynch