Hello from the community foundation!
We are excited that 2023 is in full swing. Our team appreciates the many opportunities already this year to talk with those of you who are current fundholders, as well as those of you who are considering becoming fundholders. We look forward to working with current and new donors through donor-advised funds, field-of-interest funds, scholarship funds, or unrestricted funds at the community foundation to achieve the charitable goals that are important to you and your family.
Our update this month covers the importance of local giving, trends in corporate giving, and tips to keep top of mind as you, your family, and your advisors work together to pursue your philanthropic priorities.
Happy February! Thank you for the opportunity to work together.
Angie Tatro, CEO
Community foundations: Unparalleled resources for local giving with major impact
As economic times get tough, more and more people are asking how they can make the biggest difference right in their own backyard. Indeed, local giving is a topic that has even made its way into the opinions of the mainstream media, causing many charitably-inclined people to pay more attention to the impact their dollars are having on the causes they love.
Sometimes the greatest needs really are right here at home. As donors explore charitable giving opportunities and receive requests for funding from charities near and far, it can be helpful to read first-hand accounts of why other philanthropists have been so inspired by uncovering local needs that they simply were not aware of.
Over the years, researchers have consistently validated the important emotional elements of giving to familiar and nearby organizations to foster the rewarding sense of connection that is such an important driver of repeat philanthropic behaviors. Today’s donors want to be able to actually see the results of charitable investments.
Here are three suggestions for anyone who wants to get started on a “give local” journey.
First, scan the local news. Many people are very accustomed to scrolling the news feeds on phones and catching the national and international headlines. Local news can be hard to find, but those outlets do still exist! In particular, many television stations’ websites include a local news tab. Spend five minutes scrolling through the local news for three days in a row, and you might be surprised at how much you learn about your own community. Make a mental note of issues that raise your eyebrows or make you ask yourself “I hope someone is doing something about that.”
Second, with this research in hand, run a few quick Google searches with the key words you’ve identified, along with the terms “nonprofit,” “charity,” and the name of your town or city. Sometimes these searches will illuminate organizations you might have heard of or even be involved with already. At the very least, you will begin to frame your own description of the local causes you care about.
Third, reach out to the team at the community foundation. The community foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our region, and that is possible through the work of nonprofit organizations and people like you who support them. The community foundation team will know which nonprofits are addressing the issues you’d like to learn more about and can provide advice about how your charitable dollar can make the greatest possible difference.
The community foundation is unparalleled in its ability to be flexible and responsive, providing outstanding, personal service designed around your needs while at the same time working closely with legal, tax, and wealth advisors to ensure that you are maximizing the financial elements of your charitable giving plan.
We look forward to working with you to make as big a difference as possible in the causes you love and make our community an even better place for everyone.
Corporate giving: Amazon’s news, key trends, and a primer to kick off the new year
Since it launched in 2013, the Amazon Smile program has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to various charities. The program worked by allowing customers to identify a favorite charity in the customer’s Amazon profile. Then, Amazon would make a donation equal to 0.5% of each of that customer’s purchases for as long as the customer kept the designation in place. Amazon recently announced that it was shutting down the program, to the disappointment of a lot of people.
Because the program was so easy to use, many smaller organizations were successful in rallying their supporters to sign up for Amazon Smile and direct donations to the organization. The program was especially popular among youth groups and school-related charities where parental involvement made it easy to get the word out and secure sign ups.
For many, the news about Amazon Smile has sparked renewed interest in corporate philanthropy, not only in large businesses, but also in small, local businesses. How much should a business allocate for charitable giving? How should the company decide where to make its charitable donations? To what extent should employees be involved?
If the company you help lead, or even perhaps own, has a corporate giving program, it may be wise to give the tires a quick kick and evaluate potential tweaks. Certainly your company’s program is unlikely to be at the scale of Amazon Smile; still, with Amazon Smile’s demise in the news, you and your colleagues may agree that a refresh is in order. It could be time to dust off the research on corporate giving best practices and evaluate how those tried-and-true principles apply to your company’s community involvement today.
Here are three steps to consider as you discuss corporate giving with your colleagues, either formally or informally.
Check in on strategy and process, including basic communications guidelines
If your company doesn’t have a strategy or system for prioritizing sponsorship requests, charity event invitations, and requests for donations, you may want to consider putting this in place, whether it’s a simple verbal agreement among company leaders or something more formal such as a written plan. Sometimes, a charitable giving strategy is based on the owners’ values. Some companies seek employee input. Regardless, it is important to have at least a simple communications strategy for maintaining positive relations with the charities whose requests the company turns down, as well as requests from employees.
Consider structuring the program with an easy-to-use corporate donor advised fund
A corporate donor-advised fund at the community foundation can do wonders to help streamline the administrative load. All donations into and out of the corporate donor-advised fund are tracked in one place, making it easy to see which organizations have been supported historically. A corporate donor-advised fund also makes it possible for a company to plan ahead to be able to fully fund its charitable goals even in years when revenue is down. Reach out to the community foundation to learn more about how a corporate donor-advised fund could work for your company.
Make an effort to get the word out
Many companies are doing a lot of good, ranging from employee volunteer outings to canned food drives to monetary donations. Sometimes even employees are not aware of all of the charitable activities going on at their employer. Consider carving out 30 minutes every month to report on the company’s charitable endeavors, whether that’s simply an internal communication or a more public update on the company’s website or social media channels. Business owners and executives are often surprised at how much goodwill comes from simply celebrating the good the company is already doing.
As always, the team at the community foundation is here to help you and your company with its charitable giving program. We can help you set up a corporate donor-advised fund, assist your team with creating and operating a matching gifts program, set up disaster-relief workplace campaigns, establish donor-advised funds for executives and employees, collaborate on a philanthropic component of a business sale, and much, much more. There’s plenty to smile about!
In the news: Billionaire givers, QCDs, and celebrity inspiration
Bring out your inner academic with this blog post published by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, especially if you’re interested in the latest chatter and variety of opinions on so-called “billionaire philanthropy.”
If you’re contemplating charitable giving in your retirement years, read this Kiplinger article to brush up on the Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD), recently enhanced by late-2022 legislation. We totally understand that the first (and second, and third) time you read about QCDs, your eyes may glaze over, but the concept really is worth understanding. Contact the team at the community foundation. We are happy to break it down for you in English!
Finally, it can be reassuring to see high-profile individuals (Idris and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, for example) speaking up about their philanthropic values. In a world where so much needs to be done to improve lives and respect humanity, role models offer hope that philanthropy and community involvement can be important factors in progress.
This newsletter is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal, accounting, or financial planning advice.