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How Community Foundations Are Managing Change

Hear community foundations discuss which systems and processes they are using to create space for the essential, impactful work supporting they do.


  • fund minimums
  • how to deal with inactive fundholders
  • grant catalog feature
  • tribute donors
  • individual giving is trending down in the us
  • engaging young people
  • how to balance learning and daily work



Speaker 1 00:00:01:23

Welcome to Connected Philanthropy. In today’s episode, we are hearing from community foundations discuss how they are managing change. This discussion comes from a recorded coffee talk webinar that found it hosted. And for those of you that don’t know, Fund and host these coffee talk webinars as an opportunity for either funders or non-profits to come together and share best practices, ask questions and just connect with one another.

Speaker 1 00:00:30:03

There’s always a lot of great discussion and ideas that come out of these webinars, so I would highly encourage those of you listening to participate, and you can do that by going to found Intercom forward slash events. That link will be in the description. But for those of you who can’t join live, this podcast is a great alternative where you can just listen to a tightened up recording with the main takeaways included in today’s episode.

Speaker 1 00:00:57:14

The main topics covered are fund minimums, How to deal with inactive fund holders, community suites, grant catalog feature individual giving trends, and how to engage young people in philanthropy. So without further ado, let’s dive right in and hear from our community Foundation participants.

Speaker 2 00:01:19:19

Hi. I would be interested to know what are people’s minimums for opening a fund? Because we’ve talked about in order to focus more on equity of lower, possibly lowering the minimum, how much people are giving when they open funds. I don’t know if anyone has a suggestion for that if I’m going off subject, because this is a change we’re going through.

Speaker 2 00:01:42:01

We also thought maybe there are other ways that people, if we shouldn’t take down our minimums, $10,000. Hey, this is Linda. I’m on Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin. We’ve got community funds. That’s like like we have different affiliates with our communities. We serve nine counties across Wisconsin. But we’ve got like, you know, probably a total of like almost 800 funds.

Speaker 2 00:02:03:09

But we have community funds. That’s 50,000 minimum. A donor advised is 15, scholarship is 25,000. A designated or field interest is 10,000. And an agent’s see or fund is 10,000. And we’ve raised those, you know, we’ve gone up about 5000 on everything. And I think, you know, to that point, Julia, you’re almost talking about an entirely different program or initiative.

Speaker 2 00:02:32:01

And so there does need to be some pretty clear guardrails on a program like that so that it’s manageable and it might have to fall outside of your Standard Fund administration so that they can be more sponsor type opportunities to create engagement. Yeah, because we’re we’re you know, our donor advised fund is 10,000 and these are just regular donor advised funds and and so some of them are passed through, some of them are not, but they’re not community initiatives or endowed funds.

Speaker 2 00:03:05:02

They’re just regular donor advised funds. And our thought was, if we want to be more equitable, maybe lowering that to $5,000. But, you know, there is there are the fees and the administrative costs. And we would have we might have to change fees for the lower threshold funds. So I we actually had pretty low minimum balances, $5,000, and we had allowed donors to take up to five years to get to that point.

Speaker 2 00:03:36:06

And it was just too much administrative wise. So we increased to $10,000 and for our scholarship funds, they are only in now and the minimum is 25,000. You know, we have limited staff here and it was just again, especially the scholarship funds and, you know, especially the ones too, that were not in doubt or what we call non permanent funds.

Speaker 2 00:04:07:00

It was a struggle to get people to continuously, oh, it’s time for scholarship, you know. Do you want to add this? So we’ve just eliminated the option for nonpermanent funds. However, what we do have is a general scholarship fund so that if somebody wants to contribute to education in some way, that they can make a donation to that fund.

Speaker 2 00:04:33:20

But again, as far as the named funds, we we wrote, we raised the minimum created gift.

Speaker 3 00:04:40:21

Okay. A couple other questions in here that I think are I’m going to ask out loud. How do many of you deal with inactive fund holders? Have you been able to get them reengaged? Hello, everyone. So one of the things that we do here at the foundation, so we have a policy in place, so anything any an activity for a fund, specifically donor advice funds, three years or more is considered inactive.

Speaker 3 00:05:13:11

So that’s a part of our policy. And what we have in place is that our CFO goes in once a year and puts a list of the people that were inactive or who have been inactive for three years passively. The list and what I do is in our effort to do outreach, we try to reach out via email or phone and we try to reconnect with them.

Speaker 3 00:05:35:22

We have a lot of the donors who are fund holders, who are inactive, who have been with the foundation for a long time. So it’s a lot of the conversations are talking for the first time with them after a long time. So it’s also an opportunity to reengage our fund holders. At the same time, I say just getting them from moving from inactive to active.

Speaker 3 00:05:59:22

So that’s just sort of how we do it. We do it on an annual basis and we just try to get people to and we do every effort we can. We, we email. If they don’t answer the email, we call. If they don’t, they don’t answer that. And we do send a letter to the mail. Thanks for sharing.

Speaker 3 00:06:15:09

Anyone else got any fund strategy tips?

Speaker 2 00:06:17:17

Yes. Hi. I specifically work with inactive funds here at the Alaska Community Foundation and it was a detailed use of collaborative process building and the components were put into a process document there whereby inactive funds have a variety of ways that they touch our or they may have touched our foundation through finance, through grant side, through development side.

Speaker 2 00:06:52:06

So we make sure that every component of the organization has a look at the list of inactive funds and can weigh in on that. Before I begin my research. I do thorough research on all of the inactive funds and then I bring them once again to the attention of the leadership here before I begin my outreach to find them or to re communicate with them or to invite them back.

Speaker 2 00:07:22:00

And it can be it has been extremely useful. I went from a large list and I have been very successful at bringing in, I would say all but one is just really it’s I can’t find all.

Speaker 3 00:07:39:10

That’s great to hear. Okay, We got one question in the chat that I’ll admit I’m partial to. Has anyone here implemented C Suites grant catalog feature for their portal? We’re exploring how to make this work and are hoping to hear of successes.

Speaker 2 00:07:55:06

We love that.

Speaker 3 00:07:57:02


Speaker 2 00:07:59:04

Ever. Most of the time, yeah. To test it before you launch a major wide community initiative. Because sometimes they do the one thing great about them and C suite as they continuously improve their product. But sometimes the improvements happen in a way that affects something you’ve already set up. So you’ve got to test the catalog before you launch it right before.

Speaker 2 00:08:27:11

But aside from that caveat we do, we realized our community was not doing giving to, say, the nonprofit. We don’t we don’t have foundations, we don’t have corporations in our community. And so, you know, the nonprofits are hand to mouth and we use this catalog feature to help 77 local nonprofits participate in giving. Tuesday and first year we raised 850,000.

Speaker 2 00:08:57:04

We had 200,000 a match that we applied to that today. And the second year we had 400,000 a match. We raised a million too, and last year we raised 1,000,008 and and we had 500 plus and match. And the gifts were about last year, about 500,000 of that came through credit cards, through the catalog. And then, you know, we trained all these nonprofits how to raise the money.

Speaker 2 00:09:30:00

And so they also dropped off checks and some other donors stuff the stock as well. But so we could enter into the catalog the gap, let’s say, for stable urban ministry, we could enter a gift into the catalog or someone could go online and enter. And then at the end, there’s all these buckets of money for the 77 organizations and the check and the and the grant is just really easy to get the get out.

Speaker 2 00:09:56:21

We had, of course, obviously I’m not the one who does it or what we say and how easy it was, but our whole our whole team is involved and it is a really good feature. I want to it’s one way that we include donors of all abilities to give. You can limit the gift like minimum give 25 $20 I or $25, but you don’t have to do that.

Speaker 2 00:10:26:23

And that’s just a way you can engage people in giving to what they care about at any level. Yeah, that’s great. Yeah. Stephanie here asked, Do you put the catalog out to the masses or just to your fund holder? Oh, we put it out to the masses. To them, yeah. We’re training for the nonprofits and teach them how to how to reach out to their donor base.

Speaker 2 00:10:53:00

And we give them template language and, and a direct link are your URL for their catalog. So they’re not worried about, you know, they don’t send a link to our website. They send a link to their catalog donation. Right. So that they’re promoting their online giving opportunity to their to their donors. We we we had to the 2722 donors.

Speaker 2 00:11:23:01

I mean we’re serve one county in a fairly low wealth area. Right so yeah and and 800 of those were first time donors to our That’s incredible. Yeah. The nonprofits raised more money. We met new donors. Now we know what they care about. So there are good prospects for designate that endowments the lowest cost fund to manage. And so it’s just you know and and the more importantly, the nonprofits get general support.

Speaker 2 00:11:52:19

Yeah for sure. What you know, that’s a really successful campaign there. That sounds like you guys did really well with that. Thank you for sharing, Mary. I like we had an off topic question in response to that one in there.

Speaker 3 00:12:06:18

Yeah, I was just waiting.

Speaker 2 00:12:07:22

Until the grant catalog.

Speaker 3 00:12:09:00

Discussion kind of popped off, but I’ll go ahead and read this one out. One change we have seen is an increase in tributes in memory of someone who has died in the community. Tributes require a lot of administrative receipt receiving to donors who likely don’t donate again if they live outside the community specifically, rather than send receipts to all.

Speaker 3 00:12:29:21

We sometimes just provide a list to the family and let them send a thank you. What priority do other foundations put on receiving tracking tribute donors? We use the description of the grant recommendation to communicate. The nonprofit needs to notify the family with a donation to the family. If they need the family’s contact info, they contact us. That’s what Madeleine said.

Speaker 3 00:12:51:07

I got one from Shannon here because funds have a distinct URL. Recently, a fund holder had their fund URL link to a QR code that was printed in a funeral program. A very successful way for a loved ones to scan the QR code from their phone and make a direct donation to the fund. I think that that’s incredible.

Speaker 3 00:13:08:07

Way to keep up with change. Everyone’s carrying their phone with them everywhere, right?

Speaker 2 00:13:13:05

Like just and it gets back to where we started this conversation with just the ease of online donations and people taking the time to do it more instantaneously than waiting for just send in a check. But that’s a great, great observation. Yeah. And I think that correlates to all of your events, right? It’s not just in this case, a funeral.

Speaker 2 00:13:34:10

It could also be for any gathering that you have is just making the QR code accessible. That’s a great tool to just sort of make it more immediate that people could follow up while there. Even even a mother sitting at the event talking, they might be compelled to just make that donation. So that’s great. And Linda’s made that comment.

Speaker 3 00:13:54:24


Speaker 2 00:13:55:06

Now they use those QR codes on on most events now, and I think that’s smart. Whether it’s linking to a donation page or it’s like into more information. Either way, it’s just giving them sort of that access to deeper information later with great, great Yeah, great adaptation of technology there.

Speaker 3 00:14:15:01

Yeah, that feels like one that’s sticking around too. Definitely has moved beyond fatness. So yeah, not sure about crypto yet, but.

Speaker 2 00:14:24:06

It is, but it plays to that like instant sort of connection, right, of information. And we’re so used to being able to do things instantaneously. And even with the best of intentions, we maybe don’t come back to it or we lose that emotional drive that got us to the event in the first place, right? So I think yeah, So I think it really hits today’s discussion well, just talking about behaviors and what changes are being made and what we can continue to do differently to serve those needs.

Speaker 2 00:14:52:04

That’s great. Great example. I just wanted to tie in the recent presentation I looked at about beginning to I’m sorry, they are giving us a numbers that show that giving by individuals is actually trending down. The numbers of individuals who are giving is is declining. Total dollars actually declined, but it can still total dollars given in the U.S. We’re very high still, but a lot of it was given by foundations.

Speaker 2 00:15:32:16

A lot of that was given by mega-donors. Like, you know, there’s a Mackenzie Scott factor that you factor. The mega-donors giving is trending down in the United States as a civic engagement, you know, church attendance, etc., etc.. So I think it’s very important for all of us to make sure that we have systems in place that can both attract someone who can make a $10,000 gift as well as attract.

Speaker 2 00:16:06:03

So I could make a $25 gift. It makes us more of a community foundation as well, might make us better grant makers, etc. But I was pretty surprised to see the data are in there giving you a search study. So if you haven’t looked at that, it’s it’s a good tie in to something that maybe can remember how old this is.

Speaker 2 00:16:35:10

Maybe 2016. There was a study called Gilded Giving. It was really fabulous. If you calculate, you might be able to find it. But it also showed trending the number of donors and donations themselves trending down for donors who made 200,000 or less. So that’s why we like the catalog. That’s why the community foundation added that to our giving opportunities was both to be more inclusive of donors of any ability and to help nonprofits raise general support when they need it most, but also to acknowledge that things are changing this intergenerational wealth transfer.

Speaker 2 00:17:29:16

You know, our net network donors that can make these big gifts know, you know, some of them are dying, that many of most of them will be gone in 15 years. And we have to make sure that we’ve populated our database with people who do give at all ability to give and expanded the the curve of who our potential donors are because the world is changing.

Speaker 3 00:17:57:00

Yeah, very proactive. I mean, you get that 5015 year of you out there. And I think that that’s something that every foundation is feeling, right. Darrell added to the chat. Often conversation centered around how to engage young people. They’re not likely to be able to donate large amounts. Yeah, I think what people are generally seeing is that young people care about issues.

Speaker 3 00:18:22:08

And so yeah, it is just really trying to figure out how to get them engaged, even if it is in smaller amounts. Right? So.

Speaker 2 00:18:30:18

Well, and I think some of that research was really promoting the idea that millennials have been taught a whole bunch around reciprocity of doing good and they expecting more from their companies to be socially conscious and so forth. And so if they do good, they want they expect some return benefit from it. And that’s a that’s a shift in the more of a a transactional giving model of just like financially giving.

Speaker 2 00:18:57:06

They are looking for deeper levels of engagement around also those financial contributions. And so some of the lead time for millennials is going to really focus more on their their time and their talents as well as their networks in terms of philanthropy before it will convert or transition into treasures and just a longer lead time with more sort of affiliate affiliation approaches that are going to be required to kind of make that love and make that that feeling of connection to the cause and in particular to the organization that makes all that possible.

Speaker 2 00:19:35:01

So very interesting. So be interesting to see how that plays out and how we have to continue to look at not just digital strategies but other more long term approaches to how we engage and make people feel more deeply connected.

Speaker 3 00:19:52:03

Mary asks, How does everyone balance between keeping updated with information and learning new aspects of philanthropy? Being a community foundation and keeping up with day to day duties.

Speaker 2 00:20:03:06

Terry wants to know how to do it all. How do we know enough?

Speaker 3 00:20:07:01

How are we learning and maintaining our current work?

Speaker 2 00:20:11:02

Well, I can I can start while we wait to see if anybody has any specific tactics that they’re deploying. And thank you, Stephanie, for saying you found it. That’s awesome. But there really is a reality of just exactly what she says. You have to find balance to be able to lean in to what the education and research and learning can can give you, but you also have to maintain the work.

Speaker 2 00:20:34:02

But I do think some of the work that we do on a day to day basis is is easily going to inform us of what are the trends simply by engaging with the donors. Because what we’re hearing and seeing from those donors is usually a reflection of some larger trend. And so it helps to be able to connect those dots a little bit easier.

Speaker 3 00:20:53:09

Where officially kind of at time here. So again, thank you for everyone who took time out of their day to be engaged with your community and then especially with those who who volunteered information up today.

Speaker 2 00:21:06:23

So, yes, we appreciate you all. Thank you very much for your time.

Speaker 3 00:21:11:10

Yep. Have a great day, guys.

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