I’ve written many times about endowment funds and their role in charitable giving. But a recent meeting really brought that message home to me.
So let me review what an endowment fund is and how profound its impact can be. A popular concept we all hear these days is called sustainability. It’s all creating a way to live and thrive without using up more and more resources. Endowment is like that. It’s about creating a charitable fund that grows and grows, enabling benefits to be expended without ever using up the initial donation.
The best example I can tell you about is the Leroy Larsen Scholarship Fund. Leroy left money in his will to be used for an endowed fund, managed by the Community Foundation, to pay for nursing school scholarships.
I recently met for an annual review with members of the Washington County Nurses Association who select the recipients of those scholarships. We recalled how Leroy had left $125,000 in his will to open that fund, with the stipulation that only its earnings would be used for scholarships.
Year after year we take out up to 5% of the fund’s value for scholarships and fund management fee. Yet today that fund has a value over $175,000! That means the amount given toward scholarships is growing … and soon the total accumulated amount given away will be more than Leroy gave to the Foundation in the first place!
By managing the assets carefully, and staying within reasonable targets for spending its earnings, this scholarship fund is thriving. So an endowment fund is not only sustainable giving, but it’s also a way of paying it forward.
That’s a powerful impact that will get even bigger for generations to come. And that is precisely the model that the Community Foundation is focused upon. Our goal is an endowment of $20 million. That amount will let the Foundation provide $1 million and more year after year for charitable projects in Washington County without asking for another dime in donations.
How much of an impact would $1 million a year have for our community? Just let your imagination run with that thought!
I hope everyone reading this column will consider how he or she can become part of that goal and dream. By far the easiest way is to put the community into your will or estate plan through the Foundation. Just like Leroy Larsen did. Like others are doing right now.
Search your heart and ask yourself how much this community has meant to you and your family. Then make the appropriate gift in your will. It’s the most powerful thing you can do to benefit the generations to follow.
Robert E. Coffey is Director of Development for the Blair Area Community Foundation, 1646 Washington Street, Blair, NE 68008. He can be reached at 402-426-2810 or firstname.lastname@example.org.