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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Turning charitable dollars from annuals to perennials

Charla Schafer
Charla Schafer is privileged to serve as the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine.

Muscatine Living

I am fortunate to be able to work in the shadow of Community Foundation leaders, volunteer Board members, and visionary donors that have built the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine. The unusual circumstances of today illuminate the wisdom of these forward-thinking individuals.

You may have read recently that the Community Foundation and one of its funds, the Muscatine Health Support Fund, have partnered to offer $100,000 in matching money to dollars gifted to the Community Continuity fund for relief efforts.

How does this happen that the Community Foundation is positioned to provide matching dollars of this level? Not by accident, but by thoughtful, envisioned intention.

A donor gift to the Community Foundation can be aligned around an immediate need as we are doing with current donations to the Continuity fund. But, importantly, those gifts are being matched by monies from our unrestricted endowments that have been built over our history. This is the beauty of the Community Foundation model; a gift to our unrestricted endowment allows us to be nimble the year it is received and every year after, virtually forever.

Gifts to our unrestricted endowments are invested, and amplified through market growth, thus we are able to spend 5% each year to strengthen community priorities or, under current circumstances, to stabilize our community through reactive and proactive relief efforts.

A simple analogy is your garden. When you buy and plant an ‘annual’ you see the returns in the single year you planted it. When you purchase a ‘perennial’, you pay for it once but you and those that come after you get to enjoy the beauty of your investment as it returns year after year. This is what a gift to an unrestricted endowment enables.

We can’t know what the future holds. And to that end, many, many of our committed neighbors over the years have given gifts to build an unrestricted endowment to enable the Community Foundation to be nimble, responsive, and impactful during ordinary and unusual times, this year and every year in the future. Good people that sit in your church, at your work, or on your block who want to give back to the place they have called home; the place they have raised their children.

People like Hilda Collitz who left money to be directed toward helping the homeless, but also left sizable unrestricted dollars to provide Community Foundation leadership the latitude to react and provide vision for the shifting needs within our community.

And, Bob and JoAnn Jensen, who have consistently and generously gifted to area students through sizable scholarships, also unassumingly make substantial annual gifts to grow our unrestricted “Cares and Shares” endowment, for which they founded. This endowment strengthens our community this year and every year. We are experiencing their “perennial” vision today as monies from this endowment amplify your gifts to relief efforts through our matching program.

We thank all of those that came before us that gave a percentage of their estate or their incomes to unrestricted endowments at our Foundation. They knew they couldn’t predict the future, but had the vision to gift in a way that helps design a stronger today and all of our tomorrows for our children and our children’s children. We are grateful.

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