“ROSE COMMUNITY Foundation is known primarily as a grant making organization the steward of the $170 million in proceeds from the sale of Rose Medical Center in 1995. Indeed over the past 21 years, RCF has granted nearly $240 million to nonprofit organizations serving diverse populations in the areas of aging, child and family development, education, health and Jewish life.
RCFs grant making represents the value of charitable giving on a large-scale community-wide stage. Over the past decade, RCF has added philanthropic services to its activities. The foundation uses its expertise to help families and individuals act upon their values of charitable giving and philanthropy.
RCF President and CEO Sheila Bugdanowitz explains the importance of helping people fulfill their philanthropic desires:
“The early work we did, especially during the first 10 years of the foundation, was primarily grant making. It is important to understand that the word community in Rose Community Foundation is not just a word. We are a community foundation, which is a special designation.
”Community foundations have the responsibility to hold assets for others as well as to invest toward grant making. A lot of people think that community is just a nice word in our name, but it really is a designation.”
The first few years of the foundations history were spent demonstrating that RCF was a good steward of the communitys money, and earning the trust of private individuals and families to hold their assets.
Early on, a few funds were established within RCF. RCF administered the Endowment Challenge, in which it helped raise and hold endowments for 19 Jewish nonprofits.
Over time, with marketing, people began to see us as a place for them to think about housing their personal philanthropy through donor-advised funds. “We now have 77 of them,” Bugdanowitz says.
These philanthropic services comprise a sizeable part of what RCF does. Here are the numbers:
At the time Rose Medical Center was sold, RCF received $170 million.
Since that time, it has granted out almost $240 million.
- RCF now holds $310 million in assets.
- Of that $310 million, approximately $30 million are donor-advised funds.
- $50 million are endowed or designated funds.
- $18 million in funds are held for special purposes, such as when different foundations collaborate on a project, and they ask RCF to hold the money in a designated fund, so that when the project is ready, the money is released.
DONORS ENTRUST their personal resources to RCF for different reasons.
”Sometimes they come here because theres a connection,” says Bugdanowitz.
”Perhaps their children have been involved in one of our programs, or they’ve served on a committee or on the board, or their friend told them they need to come here, or they’ve seen some of our work in the community, and it resonates with them.
”We are actively looking for people whose giving is aligned with ours, or whose views are aligned with ours,” says Bugdanowitz.
In many cases, people contact RCF because they are involved in estate planning, looking at their wills, or they want to involve their children or grandchildren in some way.
”We’re seeing much more of this, where people feel they dont want to leave all the charitable decisions to someone else to take care of after their death. This is very smart of them. Theyd really rather involve their family in thinking about these things before they die.”
However, most people with whom RCF works are not thinking that big or long term, Bugdanowitz says.
“Some are thinking that philanthropy can be a wonderful way for children and parents to talk about what is important to them — why being charitable is a responsibility.
“This includes young children at home and adult children out on their own. Some start this work when the kids are in middle school. By the time they’re in college, its more difficult to get together.
”Some families, after working with us for a couple of years, set aside a time, like Thanksgiving, to make family decisions about charitable gifts. These are not always big gifts.
“In some cases, its $250 to something the kids care about, or they will agree on $500 for the day school their children are going to. It can be little or big. It depends on the family and the age of the kids.
”Where they decide the money will go is probably less important to parents that that the fact that they are having conversations about this. We are there to help them with those conversations and often facilitate them,” Bugdanowitz explains.
”We see strong generational differences in terms of whats important. The younger children care about animals, saving the planet, their school. As the children mature, their world view changes a little bit; they may have been touched by a nonprofit they want to fund. Maybe they’ve been involved in some sort of nonprofit activity at their college, such as Hillel.”
She says these discussions are opportunities for the family to have a shared experience and for the parents to model a value of philanthropy. ”And everybody is better when its facilitated. That way Mom and Dad can have opinions without being in charge.”
THE PROCESS at RCF starts with phone interviews with all the parties, so the staff facilitator can understand what the family — or individual expects from the experience. Then the clients meet with the RCF facilitator.
”We do this once or twice. Once we get the values clarified, and roles clarified, then the family can do it on their own. There’s probably been a decision by the parents of how much money they want to allocate each year, and how frequently.
“How will they make their decisions? Will it be a democratic process with a vote, or by consensus? It doesnt always start out by consensus but it often ends up that way.
”Say they have $1,000 to give away this year, and one of the kids wants to give away $250 to the Dumb Friends League. The child really needs to persuade the others as to why. And once everybody agrees, thats the decision. There’s no going back. The kids just feel very empowered. They had an important role in making a decision that involved the whole family.”
Bugdanowitz emphasizes, ”Where they give is important, but not as important as the process is.”
The RCF faciliator guides the family as they create their donor-advised fund, based on what the family wants, but there are limitations. The beneficiary organization needs to be in the local community. RCF needs to be able to vet the charity with behind-the-scenes research and physical visits if necessary.
”We make sure its a legitimate 501c3 and they are in good standing with the IRS. We take care of all the compliance issues. Then a check gets sent out,” Bugdanowitz says.
RCF REQUIRES a minimum of $25,000 in each donor advised fund. In some cases, the family can seed a fund and build it up to $25,000.
Some people think of it as a savings account for their charitable giving, she says.
Some of these funds are created when a person dies. “We find about them when the will is read. We prefer that not to happen, as we don’t always know what the donor really had in mind.”
RCF also works with people who have come into money seemingly overnight through the sale of something, an inheritance, a winning lottery ticket, or their stock goes up like crazy. “Their accountant says, You are going to have a huge gain so maybe you want to use some of this money for charitable giving.”
Bugdanowitz says, ”These are people who never really thought about themselves as philanthropists. These funds can be set up, and they can take their time in making decisions about where and how. We love the teaching part. I think were quite good at it, actually.”
Bugdanowitz shares the story of special gift that came in 2015:
“A man had set up a fund that he was growing it wasnt $25,000 yet and he had told us that when he dies most of the money in his estate will go into this fund and the children will be able to be involved charitably in their community.
”On Dec. 29, we received a check for almost $100,000 from this man’s mother who wanted to help with that. She loved that her son was doing this and she wanted them to be able to start their charitable giving earlier.”
The donor receives the tax benefit when he or she funds their RCF account. Technically and officially, RCF is giving the money to the charity.
Donor-advised funds are assessed an administrative fee based on the following tiered structure:
Fund assets of less than $1 million: 1% or 100 basis points;
Fund assets of $1 million or more: .5% or 50 basis points.
Some people have private foundations and they want help with their grant making. They can hire RCF for a negotiated fee.
Bugdanowitz says that philanthropic services are the fastest growing part of RCF. ”We are thrilled.”
Individuals and families interested in learning more should contact Bugdanowitz, Vicki Dansky, senior gift planning officer, or Gaye Leonard, director of philanthropic services, at 303-398-7400.
Larry Hankin may be reached at email@example.com.
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