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Posts Tagged ‘community foundations’

A community can die for the lack of a helping hand; however, it can survive hard times if resources are laid aside to maintain continuity.  You can help a community long into the future by supporting an endowed trust fund held by your local community foundation.  Through good times and bad, a community endowed trust fund ensures the community will not dry up and blow in the wind.

Asking The Big Question

An endowed trust fund asks every citizen, not just the obviously prosperous community leaders, “Will you consider adding a bequest in your will naming your community fund?”  The question is simple, polite, and appropriate when presented to everyone through community promotion.

Unifying The Community

Every community has several charitable needs such as the volunteer fire company, local ambulance service, community park, community center, public library, school athletics, and local food bank.  A community endowed trust fund asks you to give to support all of these without disrupting long-standing loyalties to individual charities.  It is a unique opportunity to add to the whole community.

Building A Reserve

Holding to a budget is a good thing but it does not protect from exceptionally long events such as a decline in population.  Like every individual, a community needs to build a reserve against rough times.  Timber, gas, coal, farming, and manufacturing will rise or fall eventually, but community needs remain.  A contingency fund can only be used once; it is not a long-term resource.

Ensuring Integrity

Placing an endowed trust fund with a community foundation means it will never leave the community with a bank merger, it will never become the private fund of one official or click, it will always be professionally managed, its records remain open to any citizen, and its safety is guarded by a community board, a local fund committee, and state supervision.

Avoiding Crisis Depletion

When faced with a desperate need for immediate funds, a local council or board will always turn to the easiest source, and the easiest source is  funds under their authority.  The problem is no trust account is protected from a raid during a crisis unless it has legally independent trustees protecting it as an endowment.  Nobody can ever raid a community foundation endowed trust fund–those endowments are held in perpetuity.

Expecting The Unexpected

New problems and charitable needs arise as some familiar needs receded.  No one can predict what future needs will be; but you can prepare your community by supporting a fund open to appeals based on contemporary needs.

Stimulating Good Deeds

When you see within your community the good work resulting from an endowed trust fund, you are often stimulated in other ways to reach out and help.  You see that good deeds are noticed and respected by your community.  You feel pride in being where you are.

Teaching By Example

Younger siblings, children, and grandchildren know your values by your actions.  They learn responsibilities and loyalties by modeling after you.  Your giving now can live on in memory and influence way beyond your lifetime.

Levelling The Giving

Giving to one fund means strength is gained through the number of participants rather than individual amounts.  Large and small donations help in the same way by working for a common cause.  Every gift improves the whole.

Memorializing Lives

Giving in memory of a loved one or family reminds the community to not forget how those lives were lived.  The memorial is not an unread plaque or a gravestone turned into a public marker, but a continually repeated list of honor kept alive through renewal and community appreciation.

Welcoming Home

You come home to visit and look after affairs needing your attention.  When your gift and your family name are tied to the community, the years don’t matter.  You have reason to return home.  A community endowed trust fund is a welcome home sign imprinted within each person who has given and each person whose family is memorialized.  Charles Marlin

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21.  Mr?Man, what are component funds?

Mr?Man can not believe his eyes.  Component funds is the very topic he wanted to write about.  Component funds are individual memorial funds that together form a larger field-of-interest or restricted fund.  The combined funds are usually referred to as a trust or an endowment.  One fund contract sets the purpose, fund committee, and rules for all the present components as well as new ones added in the future.

22.  Don’t multiple names of the component funds and the overall trust name cause confusion?

No, not at all.  The name of the trust becomes the brand name used to build public awareness and loyalty from one year to the next.  The fund contract sets rules on low and when the memorial component names are used so that any news announcement or program for an event will list all the current memorial component names.  When new components are added, the list grows.

23.  What are the advantages of a trust with memorial component funds?

Mr?Man has already mentioned a trust name works best as a brand name for community loyalty.  The brand name should be one that is not easily forgotten. 

Another advantage is the combined effort avoids the minimum administrative fee that would adversely affect new or small memorial funds.  Only one administrative fee would be charged for the trust.

Each memorial fund is honored equally.

A small fund does not carry the full cost of a project, but shares with other funds, contributing as each is able.

Starting and growing a new memorial fund is easy and allows family and friends to build the fund gradually.

Because the memorial funds are always listed in a uniform fashion, a family or nonprofit can create a new memorial without feeling they have abandoned their earlier memorial.  Multiple memorials are encouraged.

24.  Can you outline a good example?

Yes.  Suppose a group of friends wanted to create a memorial for a woman who believed strongly in the role of women in public affairs and in public speaking, but they were concerned they could not on their own raise enough money to make an endowed fund effective.

The solution is a field-of-interest fund supporting important women speakers in their community.  The endowment is branded Women Speak Trust.  With this brand name there is an energy flow from the first word to the last word, from the last to the first, and a flow in both directions from the middle word.  It is an easy name to remember.

Component funds may go by a name only, as for example, Lillian Gish Memorial Fund, or Michelle Obama Fund; or by a name, banner, and photograph.  For example:

                                            Lillian Gish  –Actress, Blacklisted Activist

                   Michelle Obama  —Wife, Mother, Advocate for Health Children

The list is never completed.  Nor is there a rule against honoring a living woman.  Such a trust would be open to all groups and families.  Charles Marlin

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The Weekend Journal section of the Wall Street Journal on June 5-6, 2010, ran a dueling set of articles Does the Internet Make You Smarter or Dumber?  They were no better than you would expect and I mention them only because a small boxed insert reported from Nielson that 56 seconds is the average time an American spends looking at a web page.

That is a shocker.  I sat down to inspect Clarion Friends on a pass/fail response to the 56 seconds rule.  John’s flowers, most of my book reviews, the Met And Eat Clarion County, the deviled egg competition, and Rare Gifts series all easily passed under 56 seconds.  Even our Pages with the exception of Donations passed.  Since no one seems to want to use the Donations page, it may go in the NA column.  The recipes failed to pass.

The part that hurts is that on occasion I try to write something important to Clarion County Community Foundation and to other small community foundations.  I may not use a lot of words but the thoughts are not superficial.  They could mean a great deal to the reader if given some time to breathe.  Those posts should not be forced to pass.

To solve this problem I am thinking of creating an on-line coupon attached to each post that calls for more than 56 seconds.  The coupon will entitle you to make a donation of $100. or less on the Donation page.  The coupons would have a two day expiration so the reader would need to act quickly.

If a reader has a better idea, please add a Comment, but remember to keep it brief.  Seconds count.  Charles Marlin

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Adding a charitable bequest to your will is the right thing for everyone to do.  Using the community foundation as your fund administrator is the smart thing for everyone to do.  When I write everyone I mean without exception, even if you can only manage a signed and dated letter left on the dresser top.  This is not a rich man’s task.  It is an everyman task.

1.  A bequest keeps your resources intact for health emergencies, long-term care, or even a move to Florida, and at the same time puts your affairs in order.

2.  Neither a rich nor a poor person has too little to make a bequest.  You look around and see only a $100 bond, or a riding lawnmower, or an old millstone in the yard, you have something to bequeath.  If you find two million or two thousand you still have something to bequeath.  Small amounts can join larger funds to have impact.

3.  If you want to set out the details of your bequest but still retain the option to change your mind all of that can be included in a fund contract with the community foundation to go into effect only if the bequest remains in your final will.

4.  By leaving a bequest you demonstrate a lesson in kindness and generosity to your family, church, and community.  It is a lesson no one will ignore.

5.  You may honor family and self through naming the endowment fund created with the community foundation.  This is a respected approach begun in American by Benjamin Franklin.

6.  The community foundation will always remember you by name and deed, and flower.  Every grant made from your trust fund will carry your name and restate why you created the fund.  When Clarion County Community Foundation celebrates Founders Day a flower is placed on each memorial donor’s grave marker.

7.  You may be as private or as open as you wish concerning your bequest.  Any conversations or documents between you and the community foundation are confidential as long as you are alive if that is what you request.  Your lawyer is already paid to keep his mouth shut.

8.  You challenge future generations in your family, church, or school to match your kindness and generosity with a personal mission statement.  The mission challenge can be in either your will, a side letter, or a letter you leave with the community foundation to be sent out at a later date.

9.  You have four simple ways to set up your bequest.  (A) You can bequeath a set amount or specific asset(B) You can bequeath a percentage of the total estate.  (C) You can bequeath a fraction to go to the community foundation.  For example, if you have bequeath 1/7 of 1/2 of the estate to each grandchild, simply add the community foundation by making it an eighth grandchild receiving 1/8 of 1/2 of the estate.  (D) If you have listed specific bequests for family and friends, give the residual of your estate to a trust fund with the community foundation.

10.  It is physically and emotionally easy to make a bequest.  If contact with the community foundation would be helpful but you do not want to do it, simply ask your lawyer to make the phone call.

11.  If you have named your church or another nonprofit as beneficiary for your trust fund and you are concerned about what happens if a hundred years from now the beneficiary ceases to exist or reside in Clarion County, a sunset provision in your will or fund contract can determine what happens to your bequest, and relieve your concern.

12. A community foundation has inexpensive administrative fees, is consistent in policy, and is governed by citizen trustees.

13. The community foundation is the only nonprofit recognized by the Commonwealth and Federal governments to establish endowment trust funds in all areas of charity and philanthropy.

14.  It is a good farewell.  Charles Marlin

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The nation is staggering under multiple economic blows that continue with force and as a consequence many nonprofits are closing their doors perhaps never to open again.  Other nonprofits remain open with large deficits and bleak prospects for the future.  The Federal government defaulted on its responsibility to prudently regulate excess speculation and risky debit flooding the world market.  American business, or at least some parts of it, gorged on speculation and excess expansion while allowing China to out produce them in every market except bad debits.  We as individuals took on too much debt.

Not all accusing fingers should be pointed at the above for the nonprofit sector is responsible for the mess they are in.  For too long nonprofits have operated in a way that ensured they were no more sustainable in the current year than the previous year.  They enjoyed keeping a majority of one year’s clients again the next year.  They lowered quality standards so that they could accommodate large numbers even if on occasion the waiting lobby and queue looked like a scene in a refugee camp.

What was the result of this way of doing business?  Closures, mergers, weakened providers, and desperate pleas for money and rescue are collectively creating gaps in nonprofit services thay may take decades to repair.  This should not have happened.  When a nonprofit declares its mission, garners support, and opens its doors for business that means others can not set up shop  in the same location even if they have a better business plan.  A faulty business plan is inexcusable.

A nonprofit business plan should set out the range and limitations appropriate for the staff, facilities, and clients in balance with the funding and resources available.  If the nonprofit can pay salary and benefits for two case workers with a client load of thirty each, then that is the limit the nonprofit serves regardless of the calls or requests.  Lowering the quality to take on more numbers is self-flagellation.  It prevents other nonprofits from being created, and provides the community with substandard service.

It is ignorant for a nonprofit to operate under the assumption that economic times will always be good, that fund raising will cover deficient spending, and that next year’s fund raising will provide for additional staff and facilities.  Economies never make a fluid sweeping art mouveau line ending up somewhere.  The reality is the nonprofit must plan for current, intermediate, and long term needs that factor in periods of bad economy.

The current need is to never indulge in deficient spending and never expand staff or client services if the money is not there for the full year.  Only do what you can do well and pay for.

Meeting intermediate needs means that every fund campaign earmarks a set percentage for a reserve fund.  The reserve fund is not a quick-grab rainy day fund but a reserve that has very specific criteria for its use.  Capital improvements should be planned for in a designated capital fund.  Buildings, vehicles, parking lots, and computer systems all wear out.  This should not come as a surprise in a sound business model.

Good years and bad years come singularly and in multiples, and it often seems the climb out of depression takes far longer than the fall into it.  Nonprofits should set an earmark in every fund campaign for an endowment fund held not in their control but in the control of a community foundation.  Friends, volunteers, and donors should be encouraged to remember the nonprofit through a bequest in their will.  An endowment fund is life and fire insurance for the nonprofit.

There are three kinds of monies nonprofit boards and administrations should recognize.  I will color code them green, red, and blue.  Green money is for operations, for the here and now.  Red money is for reserve and capital projects.  The reserve fund must have criteria set out defining its use so that panic is not the criteria draining it.  The capital fund is set aside for what it describes, and is not available to cover operating deficit or other emergency that qualifies for the reserve fund.  Blue money is out of the nonprofits reach in an endowment fund protected by a community foundation.  The fund may contribute each year to the operating budget as well as the reserve and capital funds, but its principal function is to provide sustainability to the nonprofit through thick and thin.  It is never a quick fix.

The current depression demonstrates the old way nonprofits went about business is fatally flawed.  Reality calls for green, red, and blue monies or at some point your nonprofit will expire.  Friends will say, ah what a shame, and my response is, yes what a needless shame, they were out of control.  Charles Marlin

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Why do we give?  Why do we write a $25, $50, or $100 check for a community foundation or nonprofit charity that in no apparent way touches our life?  We may think our motivation is simple but it probably isn’t.  The truth is we take something from many different reasons to put together a feeling of satisfaction when we give.  To our surprise we are often more committed than casual.  Test yourself against these recognized motivations.  One point for each motivation you acknowledge, with any score above 0> commendable.

We are compassionate.  Regardless of cultural and familial experience, people everywhere are moved to respond when they see or read about others in need.  We feel for them as fellow human beings.  On this one everyone should score well.

We feel good giving.  Brain scans confirm what we feel inside when we give.  We feel good.  The pleasure sensors kick in when we give out.  This makes it easy to acknowledge that we have something to smile about.

We model others who give.  Watching our parents as they gave and helped others made a life impression on each of us when we were growing up.  Our grandmother’s small checks mailed in on a regular basis was a powerful lesson with no assignment or test necessary.  We understood this is what good people do.

We understand there are principles larger than ourselves.  Whether we consider charity to be based on religious beliefs, philosophy, or universal values we know there are ideas that bind humans together and that call for taking care of others.  These ideas are larger than self-interest and advantage.

We believe giving is a civic responsibility.  We believe that an orderly society that secures personal safety and ownership gives everyone a responsibility to support public health and respect for the law.  When others are hungry, sick, frightened, without shelter and livelihood our society is put at risk.  We give our share to keep society civil.

Through giving we live beyond life.  When we give we know that we influence the future, sometimes only immediately and sometimes for a very long time.  By creating a memorial endowment fund we keep our name and memory alive in the community long past the readability of a gravestone.  We like to feel we leave behind something good when we die.

We have unknown and private reasons for giving.  No author has successfully put everything we are in a single book.  No observer discovers everything that has happened to us or that we have thought about.  Nor is it necessary that we know everything about ourselves.  We can have unknown reasons for giving.  We can have private reasons for giving.  If those answers are not satisfactory to others, we can and should walk away.

To give is our choice.  Charles Marlin

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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

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