Serving Her Beloved Community

JCCF’s new president and CEO looks forward to facing challenges

by Rebecca Berfanger // Photography by Tony Vasquez

After Gail Richards, the former president and CEO of the Johnson County Community Foundation, announced her retirement in March, her mentee, Kim Kasting, who has worked for the organization for her entire career and is a lifelong Johnson County resident, decided to throw her hat in the ring, but she needed to earn new credentials first. This included her getting a Certified Fund Raising Executive certificate — or CFRE — a voluntary and internationally recognized program regarding ethical and accountable decision making for fundraising professionals.

After completing her certifications, she applied for the job, and the board officially approved Kasting in July, and her first day in the new role was Aug. 1. Richards, who had worked with Kasting for her entire time as president and CEO of JCCF, was happy to help with the transition, which has included sharing some of the smaller details that go with running a business.

“For example, she knows we have an annual audit but doesn’t know all of the documents that go into the annual audit assessment,” Richards said. “I put most of the finer details about JCCF into a 12-month document for her to use, and then she and I go over each month to make sure the details are addressed in a timely manner. As she passes each monthly milestone, and if there is background to share, I’ve done that for her, as well. I also like to think I’ve added a bit of ‘atta girl’ in encouraging this transition for her,” Richards said.

Now, a little over two months after starting the job, Kasting spoke to SOUTH about how she plans to keep up the hard work and continue to strengthen relationships that JCCF is known for while building new relationships along the way.

Kasting is a proud, 10-year, 4-H member who raised sheep and cattle and is a Franklin Community High School graduate who moved back to Johnson County after graduating from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. Kasting currently lives in downtown Franklin in a 160-year-old house with her two school-age daughters, Avery and Ellie, who are both involved with 4-H raising sheep, her significant other, Todd, and their two dogs, Reece and Louie.

“I thought I’d end up in [agriculture] in some capacity. I thought about getting a master’s degree in agribusiness, maybe doing convention work,” she said.

However, instead of going back to school, Kasting learned from “a friend of a friend” that JCCF was going to have an opening for a director of grants and scholarships. Although she had received a college scholarship from JCCF herself, at the time, she said she had a passing understanding of the organization.

Kasting got that job after a meeting with then-CEO and President Sandy Daniels. She has appreciated how that role has led to other opportunities within JCCF, including her role as vice president of development for the decade leading up to Aug. 1 when her title officially changed to president and CEO.

“The most exciting part for me is I’ve been in the Community Foundation for a long time. I started in scholarships and grants, so I’ve seen all the steps involved with that and the inner workings of the foundation,” she said.

While at JCCF, Kasting has helped lead the foundation’s assets grow from $11 million to $40 million. She is credited by the organization for the JCCF’s first 24-hour “Giving Day,” which resulted in more than $270,000 being distributed to local nonprofit organizations. If that’s not impressive enough, she has been instrumental with JCCF receiving Lilly Endowment grants totaling $2.5 million for a 50 percent increase in the foundation’s ability to provide unrestricted grants, and she managed the “Color the County” mural program, among other accomplishments.

In addition to her work for the organization, Kasting has been an active supporter of the community. She was a 2008 graduate of Leadership Johnson County and president of the Franklin Development Corporation and Franklin Education Connection and Franklin Rotary.

“I have known Kim for many years,” said Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County’s Executive Director Lee Ann Wilbur. “I have watched her grow into a mature, forward-thinking, dynamic leader. We have sat on committees together, worked together with three other women to establish the Give Back Gals and have collaborated on several community projects between JCCF and Habitat. She is a professional peer and a dear friend.”

As for why Kasting has spent her entire professional career working for JCCF, Kasting’s said, “I love meeting with donors, I love meeting with people. In the world of the Community Foundation, developing relationships and building awareness is a lot of what we do.”

A great place to live
Kasting looks forward to continuing and strengthening the partnerships she developed over her past 15 years in the organization and how those partnerships will help the community she knows and loves.

“I think the most special thing about Johnson County is, and if you would ask anyone or any community leader, we’re very community focused and people focused, and the hospitality here is great. We want everyone to thrive,” she said. “So we work together really well in all sectors.”

Johnson County is booming with new and returning residents. “People want to come here, businesses want to open here,” she said. Kasting attributes the new influx of people into the county to it having a mix of urban amenities and a rural feel, depending on which part of the county you are visiting. Plus it’s a close proximity to the amenities in Indianapolis.

“There are so many opportunities and things for people to do,” she said of those who visit and decide to live in Johnson County. “I just love that the cities’ governments and community leaders all see the value in quality of life and place making. It’s really a big thing. People used to move for jobs, but now we’re finding places where we actually want to live and thrive and then figure out the job piece of it.”

In her neighborhood, for instance, she said her family is able to walk and ride their bikes. She added that the public schools throughout the county are also strong, and their leadership tends to be accessible to families, not to mention the role of 4-H connecting neighbors and families who choose to be involved with that program.

Facing challenges
Kasting added that there will be challenges, which is something she looks forward to solving with JCCF’s team and community partnerships.

“There are things that are tough sometimes,” she said, adding that initiatives like Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance, as well as preexisting relationships between economic development, local chambers of commerce, city governments and nonprofit organizations can help address issues in a meaningful way. This also includes JCCF’s employees.

“We have a great team here. Gail was instrumental in that growth and leadership, so I look to her. I’m grateful I’ve had her as a mentor all these years,” she said.

Having seen the endowment grow to $40 million is also encouraging for the staff and the board.

“What we’re able to do now from what we were able to do then, the impacts we can have on our community, we really are in that ‘let’s dream big’ stage. We’re at $40 million. What if we were at $50 million? That means there are more dollars available to meet the needs here in the community.”

Some of those ongoing needs include access to mental health resources, child care, affordable housing, job development and general issues leading to financial hardship.

Kasting is optimistic that even though these issues will continue to loom over Johnson County families, she and her team, with JCCF partners, have continued to have conversations on how to help make a difference while working together.

For instance, JCCF hired a success coach who works with local businesses and individuals by providing employees with access to resources. JCCF has also worked with Elements Financial on providing hardship loans to help employees get emergency repairs to their vehicles so they can get to work.

“The need for services and resources in Johnson County continues to grow. I believe with Kim’s vision and willingness to think outside the box, JCCF will elevate its level of donors and help offset this continued need,” Wilbur said.

Kasting also mentioned they continue to apply for large-scale grants, including a recent two-for-one matching grant through a Lilly Endowment grant for community foundations around Indiana where the funds would be unrestricted and used to meet the communities’ greatest needs.

“Kim truly believes in collaboration,” Wilbur said. “She listens and makes decisions based on the big picture. She focuses on outcomes and how they will benefit the community. Kim uses a commonsense approach and truly strives to make Johnson County a better place. With her connections and ability to draw people in, I think JCCF and the community are in for great things to come.”

Knowing this publication would be out around the holidays, Kasting also encourages year-end giving, as well as legacy planning. Or, for those who know of an organization they would like JCCF to support, she’s always open to learning about new potential opportunities.

“I believe Kim is well positioned to help the foundation grow in assets, community leadership and addressing community needs through grant making,” Richards said. “JCCF has recently completed a new asset development plan and will soon be implementing a new marketing strategy. Kim is the one to make a lot of great things happen over the next few years. Kim has a great team to work with and a tremendous amount of support from the community. JCCF is in great hands with her leadership.”