Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Valerie Ingram

Valerie Ingram

Community Foundations: A Small Nonprofit’s Best Friend

What? You run a small nonprofit and you don’t have a planned giving program? Yes, yes, I know you have to draft the board meeting agenda, ask the bank president for a meeting, sign the thank-you letters and meet with the finance committee.

Surely you can start to think about planned giving … tomorrow.

Yes, I know you have to write, edit and proofread the newsletter. Yes, I understand your assistant called in sick and you also need to take that newsletter to the post office. Plus, there’s that call you must return, from a donor who’s upset because her name was misspelled on her thank-you letter. Oh, yes, I can empathize! Then, of course, you need to return the phone call from the board member who wants you to put your agency on Twitter.

You could wait to write your planned giving program next week.

Or you could just call your community foundation today.

Community foundations seek to strengthen philanthropy in their geographic areas. They provide a range of valuable services to partner nonprofits including grants, technical assistance, endowment management and consultation on planned giving. When you work with your community foundation, you don’t need to become an expert in planned giving — that’s what the community foundation already does.


A Pool of Expertise

Most often, the relationship begins when a nonprofit places an endowment at the community foundation. Community foundations pool the funds that individuals and nonprofits place with them, allowing them access to a wider range of investments than small nonprofits could have on their own.

Minimums to start a nonprofit endowment range from $5,000 to $25,000. Sometimes foundations that require $25,000 to start will allow a nonprofit to build up to that amount over five years.

A small management fee is assessed quarterly on the endowment. In return, the nonprofit gets a quarterly financial statement and access to advice and support from the community foundation’s development office.

There are so many possibilities and variables with planned giving, it can be overwhelming for a small nonprofit to know where to begin to talk to donors about the issue. Community foundations have staff with planned giving expertise and legal committees to advise them. When you identify a donor interested in supporting your endowment, your community foundation will work with you to find the best giving vehicle for the donor’s situation.

The Value of Stability

Because community foundations are endowment based, they will continue to exist long after we’re all gone. The fortunes of small nonprofits rise and fall given the times and the expertise available on their boards. There are periods of time when small nonprofits are well managed and there may be times when they aren’t. Donors are attracted to supporting a nonprofit’s endowment housed at a community foundation because they know it’s a true endowment, not subject to the whims of a future, perhaps inexperienced, board.

Community foundations also provide low-cost training for nonprofit staff and board members. When your budget doesn’t allow you to travel to professional development opportunities, find out what your community foundation is offering.

Stop making excuses to defer your planned giving program. Find a volunteer to work on that board member’s Twitter request and call your community foundation today.

By the Numbers

Consider the recruitment opportunities for your organization that these stats indicate:

  • About 63 million Americans (25% of the adult population) volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • These people spend an average of 52 hours/year volunteering.
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with only one organization, while 18.3% are involved with two.

Random interesting stats presented monthly from various sources.