The Horizon Foundation Awarded a "Bonus Grant" to a NJ Cultural Center. Here's Why.

Have you ever been in the check-out line of a grocery store when all of a sudden, bells start sounding, confetti falls from the sky, and the store's general manager comes out to award a massive, life-size check to the lucky 10,000th customer? We haven't either. In fact, we think this only happens on television. But guess what? It happens in the nonprofit world, as evidenced by recent news that New Jersey's Horizon Foundation awarded a $10,000 "bonus grant" to the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center.

Let's set it up for you. The Horizon Foundation was founded in 2004 to "help Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey fulfill our tradition of caring for others." As far as specific funding areas, the foundation supports charitable organizations that promote "health, well-being, and quality of life" across the state. One case in point is the the foundation's recent anti-obesity work. It recently awarded a significant grant of $3.45 million to New Jersey YMCA State Alliance to expand the award-winning Healthy U initiative to 15 schools over the next two years. With this expansion, Healthy U can reach more than 40,000 children across New Jersey.

So, while the foundation is primarily concerned with public health issues, they nonetheless dip their toes in the waters of the nonprofit art world, which brings us to The Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center. The center's been on a roll as of late. It just received separate foundation approval of a $10,000 award for its Glasstown Collective Education Program, which provides interactive arts education for children. In fact, since 2006, the center has received more than $100,000 in support from the Horizon Foundation.

The foundation's most recent $10,000 grant to the center is earmarked for general operational support. But why, exactly, did the foundation cut the check? Was it because, after giving over $100,000 to the center in the past twelve years, they knew the money would be put to good use? Was it because they saw firsthand the center's innovative program offerings and sound financial management? Was it because the center has touched countless lives since its inception?

The answer is "yes" to all of the above, but with a catch. And the catch is simple as it is novel. The foundation's previous $10,000 gift to the center's Glasstown Collective Education Program was its 1,000th grant issued since its inception. Therefore, the foundation awarded a special, one-time "anniversary" general operating support gift to the center to commemorate this historic event. Did balloons descend from the rafters? Did a local news reporter show up with a cameraman in tow? Fortunately not.

Beyond serving as a great feel-good story, this "anniversary" grant suggests that success breeds success. Nonprofit organizations that succeed compel foundations to keep giving, creating a kind of virtuous cycle that becomes self-sustaining and in the case of the Horizon Foundation, increasingly generous.