Historical Background

The Betterment Fund was created for charitable purposes by the will of the late William Bingham, 2nd, a resident of Bethel, Maine, who died in 1955. Mr. Bingham was a self-effacing philanthropist with an abiding interest in education and the improvement of health services in the State of Maine.

During Mr. Bingham’s lifetime, Gould Academy in Bethel was a major recipient of Mr. Bingham’s benefactions. Mr. Bingham also made grants to many individuals from within and beyond the Gould and Bethel communities to enable them to further their education. Since Mr. Bingham’s death, the Betterment Fund has established scholarship funds in his memory at several Maine colleges, with scholarship award preference to be given to residents of Bethel, Oxford County and the State of Maine in that order of priority.

Mr. Bingham’s medical interests historically were pursued largely through the Bingham Associates Fund, now known as the Bingham Program, which developed a program in Boston for the advancement of rural medicine in Maine. The Bingham Associates program served as a model worldwide for outreach programs designed to strengthen the quality of health services in smaller communities. In recent years, the Betterment Fund has collaborated with Bingham Program on several Maine health projects. See www.binghamprogram.org.

Although the traditional recipients of Mr. Bingham’s benefactions continue to be of special interest to the Fund, the Betterment Fund has come to view the areas of education and health more broadly. The Betterment Fund also has expanded its areas of grantmaking to support local communities in their own efforts to increase their capacity to improve and sustain the quality of life for residents, to preserve and responsibly use natural resources, and to increase economic development and agricultural capacity.

See Guidelines for particulars of what we are currently seeking to fund in these areas and other areas of focus.

A Letter to Grantees Regarding COVID-19

[Update: April 10, 2020:] At this time  the Betterment Fund is planning to proceed with our next grant cycle with applications due July 15th.  However, as circumstances evolve around the COVID-19 pandemic, we may make a change in our application cycle or adjust our grantmaking priorities to reflect these changed circumstances.  Therefore we strongly suggest that any nonprofits planning to apply for the July 15th cycle refrain from starting any new applications until June 1, 2020.  We will be able to post any changes to our process on this website by that date.

Dear Betterment Fund grantees:

The Betterment Fund trustees are thinking of each of you as you do your important community work in Maine and we recognize the need for flexibility as we all go forward. We are taking the following steps right now.

Administrative matters: As a first step, we are deferring the deadline for all grant reports until July 15, 2020. Of course, you may file your report on line before that date. Additionally, we understand that given the current extraordinary circumstances, your organization may be facing challenges relative to your Betterment Fund grant and we want to help. These challenges may include, but are not limited to:

  1. You need more time to file your report than the current extension.
  2. You are in the midst of a grant for a specific purpose and you are finding it difficult or impossible to meet the terms of the grant as originally envisioned.
  3. You are in the midst of a multiyear grant and you need to file your report covering your previous year grant’s activity before we can pay the next year.
  4. You plan to submit a grant application and need to have filed the report for your previous grant by that date.

If you are facing any of these, or similar obstacles, please contact your Betterment Fund supervising trustee. The name and contact information for your supervising trustee is noted on the Grant Terms Sheet that you received with your original grant agreement. If you do not have this information, please email us at office@bettermentfund.org.

COVID-19 Grantmaking: You may know that we previously cancelled our March 15, 2020 cycle for administrative staff reasons. At this point we expect to have our usual open grantmaking cycle with applications due July 15, 2020. However, you should check our website for any developments along these lines. At the same time, we are starting to make some trustee­-initiated grants to address particular COVID-19 concerns, primarily in Western Maine. We applaud the work of organizations such as Maine Community Foundation, the United Ways and Maine Initiatives in setting up new funds to address immediate concerns.

We understand that your organization plays an important role in the recovery of Maine and its residents and we hope that we can be helpful to you.

The Betterment Fund Trustees

Transitions

Nancy Stowell White, of Bethel, Maine, became a trustee of the Betterment Fund, effective June 1, 2018.

 

Trustees

  • William P. Clough III
  • Carol Berg Geist
  • Martin J. Grohman
  • Andrew L. Tansey
  • Nancy Stowell White
  • Carolyn S. Wollen
  • Bank of America, N.A.