When William D. (Bill) Wells took the stage at The Columbus Foundation’s Davis Hall during an event in December 2012, he could hardly contain his excitement.
The event, attended by friends and nonprofit leaders to celebrate the William H. Davis, Dorothy M. Davis and William C. Davis Foundation’s upcoming 20th anniversary, was a festive one. But Bill, chairman and president of the Davis Foundation, had another reason to smile. As a surprise, he and Davis Foundation board members handed out twenty $20,000 grants to commemorate the occasion, as audience members gasped, cheered, and wiped away tears of joy.
A Supporting Foundation of The Columbus Foundation, the Davis Foundation was established in 1993 by Bill’s great aunt, Dorothy M. (Dottie) Davis. Her stepson, William C. Davis, established a Donor Advised Fund in 1988, and then provided funds in his estate to be used for charitable purposes, from which Dottie created the Supporting Foundation. She oversaw the foundation until she passed away in 1996. Bill, a founding board member, became president and has carried on the family legacy ever since.
The Davis Foundation has granted nearly $30 million to a wide range of nonprofit organizations since its inception, including Franklin Park Conservatory, the James Cancer Hospital, Godman Guild, YMCA of Central Ohio, and Capital Area Humane Society.
The foundation has funded a number of meaningful projects at The Ohio State University, including the Dorothy M. Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, and Bill Davis Stadium, a 4,450-seat baseball stadium that Dottie reveled in during a construction walk-through just before her passing. It has also shown its community spirit through consistent and generous support of The Columbus Foundation’s shared investment opportunities, contributing to the matching pools for numerous Critical Need Alerts and The Big Give.
“Today, we review each grant opportunity and try to determine where we can make the most impact for the amount of money granted,” Bill explained. “Sometimes it is the larger organizations that will reach more people, other times it is supporting the very small nonprofits that, if given a little bit of money, can continue to provide services.”
After beginning its support of Franklin Park Conservatory with grants for educational and agricultural programs, the Davis Foundation provided critical funding for the exhibition and purchase of the Dale Chihuly collection, which opened to the public in 2003. It went on to support the Conservatory’s capital campaign and, in January 2012, the Conservatory dedicated the Dorothy M. Davis Showhouse in honor of Dottie.
Bill feels strongly about positioning the foundation for the future. His wife, Jackie, provides another “family” voice on the board, and his nephew, Chase, recently became involved. With a dedicated board of directors who find themselves asking “what would Dottie do?” during meetings, he hopes the foundation’s goal of supporting this community in perpetuity will live on.