The sudden dissolution of the Enrichmond Foundation has created unexpected hurdles for community groups under its banner.
The foundation, in addition to being steward of the Evergreen and East End cemeteries, also served as fiduciary agent for small community groups. That role included handling the finances, taking in donations and providing the groups access to their cash.
That cash is now out of reach, leaving some groups in limbo.
The Friends of Pump House used Enrichmond as its financial sponsor and has been forced to largely put on hold its ongoing efforts to restore the historic Pump House building on the James River near Maymont. The group had plans for a $16,000 project to replace windows at the structure.
“Basically, we have no access to our funds. At the same time this is happening we already approved the repair of five additional windows in Pump House so we put a deposit down and then had to tell (the contractors) not to do anything,” the Friends group President Penn Markham said Thursday. “When you get a contractor willing to do something at a particular time and at a particular cost you don’t want to lose them.”
The Pump House group isn’t able to accept donations, and since the organization’s insurance is also through Enrichmond it can’t hold events for the time being.
“It’s a major, major headache,” Markham said.
Friends of Pump House was founded in 2017, and Enrichmond has been its financial sponsor since then. Markham said he didn’t get any formal notice from Enrichmond that it was closing down before the Enrichmond board voted to do so in late June.
Markham said his organization was already in the process of switching to a new financial sponsor, who he declined to name, before he learned Enrichmond’s board had voted to end the organization.
Markham said that should his organization not get its money back, he didn’t think it would be an existential challenge.
“If we get none of our money back, we’ll start fundraising again,” he said, and added the volunteer group expected to continue some smaller-scale projects in the interim.
Markham said work on the Pump House was already underway and about $30,000 has been invested in the historic building in the last couple years.
Richmond Tree Stewards also have been left hanging by Enrichmond. The group, which deploys volunteers to plant and maintain trees in the city, is planning a giveaway of 2,000 trees in October. President Dave Pohlmann said its payment of a remaining deposit of more than $7,000 for the project has been stymied by Enrichmond’s drawdown.
Pohlmann said that it was his understanding that Enrichmond has served as the group’s fiduciary agent since 2007. Now the funds that Enrichmond managed are essentially frozen and the group cannot accept donations. Pohlmann said he didn’t receive any formal notice of Enrichmond’s plans to dissolve.
“All our money was tied up with Enrichmond,” he said. “We’re looking at all these things thinking, ‘how are we going to pay for this?’”
Pohlmann said the group needs a new sponsor to facilitate a cash infusion from a major donor intended to help sustain operations. The Tree Stewards board members plan to cover expenses out of pocket as needed.
He said the group is in initial talks with an undisclosed nonprofit to serve as the financial sponsor on a temporary basis while Tree Stewards applies for its own nonprofit status to make itself more independent and able to handle its own finances.
“It’s burn me once, shame on you. I don’t want to be put in this situation again,” he said.
It’s unclear how many groups used Enrichmond as their fiduciary agent.
Enrichmond’s dissolution was also a topic of discussion during a City Council subcommittee meeting Thursday.
Deputy CAO for Human Services Reginald Gordon said during a brief presentation that the city was still trying to get a handle on the fallout of Enrichmond’s dissolution and has been in touch with groups affected. He added that the city is open to helping coordinate donation drives for the groups.
“It’s going to take some time for the dust to settle to figure out where the dollars are, who’s missing dollars and how we can maybe facilitate some fundraising for people who are experiencing difficulty,” he said.
“The attorney that’s working with Enrichmond has said he needs some time to do an assessment of the funds that are left and then we can figure out how we can work with him to make sense of what’s in our domain. There are other groups obviously that aren’t connected to the city that have interactions with Enrichmond as a fiduciary agent.”
During that meeting, Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch voiced support for city officials to have discussions about a potential audit of Enrichmond’s city-provided funding. The nonprofit was founded about 30 years ago to support the city’s park and recreation efforts, though Lynch said the city hasn’t provided the group funding for the last two years.
Enrichmond’s attorney Kerry Hutcherson, of local law firm Rudy Coyner, told BizSense last week that the group would make a public statement regarding its dissolution but it had yet to do so Thursday afternoon.