Regional Foundation Library: Personal Service Since 1962
The RFL is now located in the Marvin C. Griffin Building, becoming part of Thematic Initiatives and Community Engagement.
As most of our DDCE staff know, the Regional Foundation Library (RFL) moved in September 2008 from the Hogg Foundation offices on Lake Austin Blvd. to the second floor of the Marvin C. Griffin Building at 1009 E. 11th Street, becoming part of Thematic Initiatives and Community Engagement.
Since the move, the RFL’s staff—Allison Supancic and Ellen Moutos-Lee – have continued to promote the highest standards in philanthropy by serving as a bridge between the grant-seeking and the grant-making communities. The pair, who have a combined total of 35 years of experience at the RFL, value the personalized services they are able to offer both novice and seasoned grant-seekers. They also assist organizations on new nonprofit formation, board development, and strategic planning, and offer workshops and presentations to community groups off-site.
The library opened its doors in 1962 as an internal program of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, a grant-making and operating foundation that is a unit of the DDCE. In keeping with its original commitment to make information accessible to all, the library is open to everyone, free of charge. During more than four decades in operation, the library has come to serve those seeking all types of grants, not just those related to mental health. Its patrons include representatives of nonprofit programs and services, educational groups, charitable organizations, faith-based programs, as well as individuals ranging from pre-college students to individual artists. The RFL was the fifth special collection of its kind in the country—now there are more than 400 such collections in the country. However, RFL is only one of three that maintain a substantial archive. Supancic says, “Our archive allows nonprofits to look historically at the funding patterns of different grant-making organizations. For example, someone can go back and see what the Ford Foundation has funded over the past 40 years.” She says this is important because grant interests are cyclical, much like fashion.
The archive has an important role in the university she says because of UT’s interest in philanthropy and nonprofit management as fields of study. For example, an LBJ School of Public Affairs student used the RFL archive to prepare a thesis based on Robert Wood Johnson’s health policy over time.
Supancic and Moutos-Lee stay current on what is happening in the philanthropy world through a number of professional organizations such as the American Association of Grants Professionals, the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, and the Council on Foundations. Their personal relationship with patrons is often evident in the advice sought by regular visitors, often officers with nonprofit organizations. “Some use us as a sounding board,” says Supancic. “It is a nice compliment to us, but also gives us a glimpse into how their minds are working.”
The library averages 10-12 patrons a day, with usually increased traffic on Fridays. The peak months for use are October and February due to increased use by classes at the university. These are the sessions Supancic clearly enjoys as she is able to orient students to the world of grant seeking and help them find sources of funding for research projects they would like to undertake or funding for such things as traveling to present their research. In fact, she says that over the past year, many of the DDCE’s McNair Scholarship recipients have visited the library. She muses that professors often will bring in a class of students and realize that they could be using the library to find new sources of funding for their own projects.
Two factors have changed recent patterns of use at the library. One is the current economy. Supancic says that nonprofit staff visitors have become much more creative and are looking at diversifying sources of funding. “You just cannot rely on single donor sources now,” she explains. The other factor that has affected library use is increased “off the street” traffic now that the library has moved to its East Austin location. Its previous location on Lake Austin Blvd. was “off the beaten path,” notes Supancic. People came specifically to look at funding resources at the RFL. Now, however, she is getting a number of visitors who come in to use the computers. She attributes this to the location’s proximity to city branch libraries which have begun limiting patron’s use of computers to a certain amount of time. The new RFL visitors are often working on job hunting and job application materials. “We are definitely fulfilling our community engagement mission,” she said.
Because of the time and attention involved in discussing each visitor’s individual needs, Supancic and Moutos-Lee prefer to have visitors make an appointment first by calling 475-7373 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.