If you are interested in establishing a trust fund and you do a search to learn about field of interest funds what you find is a staggering mountain of community foundations with their agendas and appeals ready. On many if not most web sites you could fill out a form and make your contribution without speaking to anyone. Other web sites suggest that your wish is their command but before you get very far you will encounter gentle, persistant pressure to fill a need they have selected for high priority. There may be very good reasons for promoting some needs over others. In contrast with these very focused community foundations, if you click on other sites you soon realize some community foundations have let their list of funds grow as grow can. It would be nasty to call their lists of funds an overgrown garden yet what might have been gained by conserted attention on a few fields of interest has been dissipated over too many fields and constricting details. At those sites the clarity of purpose and flexibility of response needed in a community foundation is lost.
In your effort to educate yourself, there are important questions you need to consider. How can you avoid being a passive or naive donor who misses an opportunity to have an impact in the community? In the years ahead how loyal will you be to the choices you make now? How can you give your fund the attention it needs to avoid the deadly inertia of the long list of funds the community foundation puts on the web site?
Your first concern is to learn the fields of interest the community foundation are best at serving and what fields they clearly need to develop. You may find that good hearts have preceeded you and that you have a very rewarding list to choose from. It would be a surprise to not find at least some established fields you are interested in.
You should ask for a history and projection of future needs in each active field the community foundation identifies as a possibility for you. There should be dollar figures and estimates of people affected and a discussion of what needs to be done. You want to know what the facts are because soft words often lead to low results. So let us run an example of what you might decide to support.
Let us say that of the established and projected fields the community foundation offers you, the field of Libraries And Knowledge resonates deeply for you. Not a bad choice at all and one that is present in every community. Congratulations. You put your name or the name of a loved one on the fund and stipulate that it is to be identified as part of the Corps of Funds supporting libraries, literacy, and community education. You decline the temptation to add restrictions, and leave it unrestricted except for naming the broad field of interest. If they don’t have a corps organized, keep your check in your pocket until the community foundation gets an organized approach to how they present their funds.
With the community foundation focused on libraries and knowledge, and you satisfied and comfortable with your field of interest, you may become a most effective advocate to friends and family for additional support in this important field. It is not only wise investment policy that grows funds. It is satified donors proud of what they have achieved bringing others into the foundation family.
Now consider a slightly different take on the same field of Libraries And Knowledge in which you select a narrow focus on one historic period. The wonderful richness of recent scholarship on The Founding Fathers And The Constitution is a big part of your reading so you make it your field of interest. You are appalled at the general ignorance of high school and university students on the subject, not to mention close friends. You know this ignorance weakens the democratic and patriotic fiber of our national character. Your passion is good but it most likely will come as a surprise to the community foundation. You may need to explain to them the importance of the field and the many ways the foundation can support the field.
Unless you are committing a sizeable contribution to make your find one that can make things happen now, you need to look ahead to the prospect of others joining this specific field as donors. Ask the fundation to include in your fund contract a provision that will allow for future donors to join their funds with yours in a corps dedicated to The Founding Fathers And The Constitution. Just as the Founding Fathers found it was not so good to stand alone when you could have company, you may have opportunities to expand support for the field to other like minded people.
After you have done some thinking about the field you like best and if you live in our part of Pennsylvania, give a call to Steve Kosak at (814) 677-5085, or to Charles Marlin at (814) 797-2233. If you live elsewhere, call your local community foundation. They will be so happy to hear from you that you may have to drive in and remove them from the ceiling. If by chance you are in an area not immediately served by a community foundation, not to worry. The closest community foundation is empowered to provide services to you and the area you live in. You have a partner waiting to help you . Only the connection is missing. Charles Marlin