Mission & Vision

- Our Mission -

Three Rivers Community Foundation (TRCF) advances social change through grantmaking, advocacy, and capacity development for grassroots and other organizations.  TRCF embraces and practices Change, not charity™ by empowering grantee organizations to ensure social, economic, and environmental justice in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Foundation’s key issue areas are: Disability Rights; Economic Justice; Environmental Justice; LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning) Rights; Racial Justice; and Women, Youth, and Families Issues

Not all of our grantees are categorized under the umbrella of our key issue areas.  We fund other components of social justice – on local, regional, national, and international levels.

Several of our grantees have successfully incorporated the arts into their work to promote social justice.  The arts can be a powerful tool in creating change, and we’re proud to support the arts through these grants.

TRCF believes in the human possibility of bringing about progressive social action.  Our Foundation solicits, identifies, and evaluates projects that define and resolve community issues at a grassroots level, and makes grants to organizations working on the ground floor of change. We support groups challenging attitudes, policies, or institutions as they work to promote social, economic, or racial justice. To support this work, TRCF raises funds from individual donors and foundations.

- Our History -

Three Rivers Community Foundation was formed in 1989 by a group of community activists who wanted to create a new kind of philanthropy in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  They formed TRCF in order to invest in activist, grassroots organizations working to bridge divisions in society.  These divisions centered on issues of race, economic status, gender, sexual identity, and disability.  Since then, TRCF has added environmental justice to those key issue areas.  The founders of TRCF embraced the philosophy that the best way to bring about social justice is by supporting community-based organizations that are working “on the ground floor” of change.  TRCF continues to embrace this philosophy today, promoting Change, not charity™ by:

Funding activism among people and groups who might otherwise not have their voices heard.
• Focusing on groups that may not be able to attract support from sources because they are too small, too new, or too controversial.
• Helping to develop new leadership in the region along with deeper and broader participation in the democratic process by all citizens.
• Offering technical assistance and networking opportunities to grassroots groups through grantwriting workshops, issue-specific forums and expositions, and outreach.

Three Rivers Community Foundation was initially incorporated as Three Rivers Community Fund.  For the first eleven years, the organization’s active volunteer board of directors managed the Foundation with only limited staff support, and using the services of consultants as needed.  Several committees were created, utilizing support from both the board members and talented and committed community volunteers.

In 2001, the Board and several other volunteers launched a $1 million endowment campaign with the goal of significantly increasing TRCF’s grantmaking capacity.  The corpus of the endowment remains untouched, and only the earnings off the investment will be used, and it is designated to be used strictly for grantmaking.  This campaign reached its goal in 2007.  In early 2009 the board installed a new Executive Director, with the mandate of implementing board initiatives, increasing TRCF’s grantmaking and administrative capacity, and expanding its reach into as many communities in the region as possible.

– Vision Statement –

As a result of Three Rivers Community Foundation’s advocacy of and support for social change, Southwestern Pennsylvania will be nationally recognized as a region that empowers its citizens to engage and embrace differences of all kinds, and ensures an equitable quality of life for all people.

– Grantee Testimonials 

“When I started Dreams of Hope in 2003 I needed funds to rent rehearsal space, pay artists, buy food for the youth, pay for performance spaces…I was not compensated for my time until I learned to write some adminstrative costs into the budget. The catch is that most foundation do not support general adminstration costs…this is a huge reason why many people burn out as they grow an organization and fail. Thanks in large part to TRCF and our individual donors we survived. Today we have a staff with two full time employees and three part time employees. We serve several hundred LGBTQA youth each year and are growing because of your support. THANK YOU!”

Susan Haugh, Artistic Director and Founder, Dreams of Hope

“In 1996, the Three Rivers Community Fund (as it was called then) gave Prevention Point Pittsburgh its first grant: $1,400 to be spent on syringes to be distributed to injecting drug users to prevent the spread of HIV…Syringe distribution (also called needle exchange) was illegal in Pennsylvania, which included syringes in a list of drug paraphernalia items that it was a crime to possess for the purpose of using illicit drugs. So we were not only flouting popular opinion; we were breaking the law.

We wrote our first grant application and submitted it to the Three Rivers Community Fund, based on its reputation for funding projects seeking to support marginal populations, whether defined by race, sexuality, disability, or other factors.

In subsequent years, as we struggled to gain legitimacy and legality, the Three Rivers Community Fund continued to give us small grants that enabled us to buy the essential supplies we distributed. All of our work was done by volunteers. In 2002, our years of policy advocacy culminated in the Allegheny County Board of Health’s declaration that the Pennsylvania law criminalizing possession of syringes for the purposes of injecting illegal drugs would not be enforced in Allegheny County because of the threat that HIV infection posed. We were legal at last and now able to appeal to a broad range of funders for our work. We would not have gotten there without the crucial early support of the Three Rivers Community Foundation.”

Caroline Jean Acker, Founder, Prevention Point Pittsburgh

“The In Sisterhood project received a grant from the Three Rivers Community Foundation in 2011 for Building Sisterhood to Transcend Racism, an oral history and multimedia project that focused on the multiple tactics used by interracial alliances and coalitions to promote gender and racial equality in Pittsburgh during the 1970s and 1980s. The grant was critical in helping to underwrite the cost of recording oral histories on digital video with 15 African American and white female activists. It enabled a consortium of freelance artists, including the In Sisterhood project director, to record the oral histories and produce a multimedia exhibit about the successes of these interracial alliances.”

Patricia Ulbrich, Director and Producer, In Sisterhood Project

“Our organization is a chapter of the National PFLAG and we support the Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex and Allies (LGBTQIA) community in the Butler County area in Western Pa. This area is extremely conservative and highly religious. For that reason, the LGBTQIA community has not been very welcome and has been discriminated against.

Three Rivers Community Foundation (TRCF) has been extremely helpful in keeping are chapter functioning and successful. During our first year of a formal chapter, we applied for our first grant thru TRCF. We were awarded a TRCF grant to host a planning retreat for our chapter…The next year we applied and received our next grant for TRCF for a National Coming Out Day (NCOD).   During our NCOD event we had small group discussions with each of the LGBTA groups to talk about the coming out process. Then we showed the movie “Gender Redesigner”, showing the journey of fAe, a Butler resident, transition from female to male…Our next grant (and the one we are working on now) is for this year’s NCOD event.   We will have other organization set up tables to showcase their services to help the LGBTQIA community. Then we will be showing the movie “For the Bible Tells Me So”, a film about homosexuality and its perceived conflict with Christianity, as well as various interpretations of what the Bible says about same-sex sexuality. After the film, we will have a panel with local religious leader and college professors for a Q & A session about the movie.

None of these events listed above could have been possible without the funding we have received from TRCF. Being a small organization in a “non-friendly” area of the country, we do not have the funds for such large scale endeavors. Without groups like TRCF, we could not have been able to reach out and provide educate to the local area of the needs and respect for the LGBTQIA community in Butler County.”

Josh Crawford, President, PFLAG Butler County