Fort Wayne Parks Foundation fund drive aims to benefit riverfront, increase responsiveness

Promenade Park, which is under construction now along the St. Marys River, highlights phase I of the project. (Courtesy illustration)

The Fort Wayne Parks Foundation was created in 1974 to raise and distribute funds on behalf of the city’s recreational facilities, but even with $10 million in the bank its ability to respond quickly to specific needs is limited because the use of 90 percent of its endowment has been limited by donors.

A new two-pronged fundraising campaign aims to change that.

“If something happens, there’s not a lot we can do. We don’t have a lot of discretion (in the use of our funds),” said board member Kathy Callen. “But now we have an on-line donor portal, and we’d like to be more responsive.”

The foundation on Wednesday was scheduled to announce a campaign that would boost its endowment for two purposes: support of the Promenade Park, centerpiece of the first phase of riverfront development, and the “Build the Future” fund that could be used as needed to meet unforeseen needs or for other projects.

The foundation typically makes annual bequests equal to about 5 percent of its assets, Callen said, which amounted to about $400,000 last year.

In 2016 the foundation pledged to raise $1.5 million for construction of the Park Foundation Pavilion in Promenade Park and has also worked with other foundations and donors, but Callen said the new fundraising portal at now gives members of the public the opportunity to support Fort Wayne’s 87-parks system that was founded in 1905.

“I can’t say we have a goal (for the campaign); we’ve never done this before,” Callen said. “But people love our parks, and they’re a huge economic development driver.”

Anyone giving more than $100 automatically becomes a member of the foundation, and donors of $500 or more to the Promenade Park fund can have their names inscribed on steps there.

An anonymous donor has agreed to a 50 cents-on-the-dollar match up to $25,000 for contributions to the Build the future fund, Callen added.