Cape Cod Foundation staff

Cape Cod Foundation Strengthens the Arts

This year and next year are seminal ones for Kristin O’Malley. In 2023, she is celebrating her 10-year anniversary as executive director of The Cape Cod Foundation. And 2024 will mark her 20-year anniversary when she was first hired as its program assistant.

O’Malley is using this time to look back on where The Cape Cod Foundation has been, and where it is going.

“It’s a good opportunity to reflect on where we were as an organization when I came on board in 2004,” she said. “At the time, we had $30 million in total assets and were giving $2 to $3 million in grants and scholarships back to the community. Fast forward to 2023 and we have about $100 million in assets, and we’ve tripled our distribution to about $6 million in grants and scholarships.”

In days and weeks, progress occurs slowly. But when you measure it in decades, it is impressive.

The foundation’s evolution under O’Malley’s tenure has allowed it to be less of a “transactional and reactive organization,” to one that is much more thoughtful, strategic, and transformational.

A major shift occurred at the foundation during the pandemic. “It was the first time we did emergency funding,” she said. “It was a really great opportunity to transition to a different grant-making process where we wanted to get the resources out as quickly as we could.”

The pandemic served as a gateway for The Cape Cod Foundation to interact more closely with organizations like the AFCC. “We knew that arts and culture organizations were not open and would face huge obstacles when they could reopen,” she explained.

Around this time the foundation received a significant bequest focused on strengthening the arts. “It’s been really nice to see how we can support the sector with its reopening while also focusing on the capacity-building piece – what do you need to not only reopen, but to staff up?” she said. “It’s been great for us to make this larger investment in the arts.”

Arts Foundation Executive Director Julie Wake with Cape Cod Foundation staff at the Cape & Islands Philanthropy Day in November 2023.
Arts Foundation Executive Director Julie Wake (second from right) with the Cape Cod Foundation’s Kristin O’Malley (from left), Alexander MacLean, Mary Beth Burwood, and Dara Gannon.


At the AFCC, that investment included a $50,000 grant at the beginning of 2022 for the Creative Exchange, allowing the AFCC to reimagine the program which provides personal and professional development for local artists, arts leaders, and staff at cultural organizations. It added another $25,000 which went to the AFCC’s most recent round of grant funding which saw it distribute a record $120,000 to 58 recipients.

“This has been a really great partnership for us,” O’Malley said. “The AFCC are experts in this field. We look at this as how can we use our resources to leverage and support their work.”

Through that support, the Cape Cod Foundation has made the region more vibrant and connected. It’s a place that holds special meaning to O’Malley who grew up on the Cape and is now raising a family here. “The best part of my job is meeting all these people who care about Cape Cod and want to create a special place for everyone – in essence creating a community,” she said.

That sense of community and belonging doesn’t happen without a strong, vibrant arts sector. “Part of the Cape’s history and economy is tied to the arts,” she said. “There are so many reasons why the arts are important to the Cape and to our lives here.”

Learn more about the Cape Cod Foundation and the work it is doing to strengthen the community at its website here