What if you could stash way some money today to give away tomorrow? What if you could invest that money, and then use those gains to do good in your community? This is, in a nutshell, the concept behind the endowed fund, and it’s our bread and butter here at the Community Foundation.
Endowed funds are all about lasting impact—building a financial portfolio that in turn builds community. Our Investment Committee, with the aid of an investment consultant, places funds into pools of stocks, bonds and other investments designed to maximize return while minimizing risk. Some of those earnings are reinvested while the bulk is granted into the community. This model of giving allows funds to grow in perpetuity, creating sustainable philanthropy and a sustainable community.
While it might seem strange to invest a significant amount of money and only distribute its gains, consider this: from 1992-98, Myron and Esther Wilson contributed roughly $277,000 in stocks and cash to an endowed donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation. To date, the fund has granted over $347,000 to various nonprofits, and yet the account balance remains at $268,000 even after weathering a recession and a difficult investment year in 2018.
“It’s nice to have when somebody comes along and needs something,” Myron said. “They really need some money and I’ve got that fund I can reach into.” He’s used the fund to support everything from the Wheelchair Ramp Accessibility Program to Big Brothers Big Sisters to the Linn County Trails Association. Myron doesn’t care to name any cause as his favorite to support, and with a donor-advised fund, he doesn’t have to.
This type of endowment allows the Wilsons and other donors to respond to community needs as they arise and change. “It’s not a matter of need, but a priority of need,” Myron explains. For guidance on that prioritization, he has the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. “It takes an organization like the Community Foundation to have the focus of the whole community and to really understand what is needed.”
By creating endowed funds at the Community Foundation, donors like Myron and Esther ensure that their charitable intentions will endure. “By putting that money in there you really are building a future for the community,” Myron points out. Having stayed so closely involved with the fund he established, he has been able to enjoy watching that growth.
This growth doesn’t just happen to larger funds, either. Every dollar gifted to the Community Foundation is invested, and all of those investments lead to more grants to the community. The important thing, of course, is that these gifts ultimately lead to community impact.