Jim Sullivan has been executive director of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois since 1999. After graduating from Bradley University, he taught for one year before moving into the banking field, where he spent two decades. His next career move took him to MassMutual Life Insurance Company, where he earned recognition for leadership and results.
Sullivan has been active in numerous community organizations over the years and currently gives his time to Rotary Club, The Salvation Army, Proctor Hospital Board of Directors, and Peoria Area Leave A Legacy.
He and his wife live in Peoria and have four children.
Tell about your background, schools attended, family, etc.
I am a native Peorian. I attended St. Bernard’s Elementary School, Spalding High School, St. Bede Seminary, and Bradley University. I’m the oldest of seven children. Our mother and five of us still live in the Peoria area; my father and one sister are deceased. When I was 13, I began working in a family-owned business, and fortunately, was able to do so throughout college.
As a kid, all I can remember is that I wanted to be a diocesan priest. My pre-college planning centered around courses in religion and Latin. When I left the seminary, I had an associate’s degree in liberal arts but no career goals. Through a less-than-scientific process of elimination, I enrolled in the education program at Bradley, from which I have a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
My wife, Debbie, and I have four children and three grandchildren.
Your career path has taken several turns. How has each change contributed to your success?
I’ve had four different careers. After graduating from Bradley, I obtained a teaching position at a local parochial school, teaching seventh and eighth grade social studies, science, and religion classes. I made $5,000 that year, and I felt it was going to be very difficult to support my wife and baby daughter on that salary.
During the next summer, I applied for a management trainee position at a local financial institution, Security Savings and Loan Association. In September 1971, I started my second career as a management trainee. For a brief period in 1976, I worked at CEFCU, where I was hired to develop their mortgage-lending program. This lending program still exists today, even though I returned to Security Savings after only six months. My various positions offered experience in real estate appraising, credit and collections, branch management, department management, and ultimately CEO. I occupied the CEO position until an RTC takeover in August 1989. I remained with the Savings and Loan until June 1990.
Very early, while still a trainee, then-president of Security Savings and Loan, Robert Jamieson, told me if I had any desire to move up in the organization, I needed to get involved in the community. It was that year, 1971, that I became a United Way volunteer. This relationship still exists today, 32 years later, as I sit on the HOIUW Pillar’s Society committee. Mr. Jamieson was a man of great intellect. He was an eternal teacher and truly a gifted writer and speaker, but his greatest strength came from his love of family and community. I was very blessed to have Bob Jamieson as my mentor and friend.
My career with Security Savings was everything anyone could ever hope for. It was very much a Cinderella story—going from a trainee to president—but it was so much more than that. It was the organization I wanted to devote my life to.
I was provided with many years of additional educational opportunities in areas such as finance, public relations, and public speaking. More importantly, though, was my exposure to the community and community leaders. These opportunities allowed me to learn from and be influenced by many brilliant men and women who provided leadership in this community.
My third career included 10 years as an agent with MassMutual Life Insurance Company. I was a commissioned sales agent providing my clients with life insurance, disability insurance, and investment products. MassMutual provided me with an education that was different from any other I had received. It was here I learned the importance of relationship building, client prospecting, and self-motivated sales calls. Development of these skills was the type of ongoing training in financial products and techniques important to tax and estate planning.
While working at MassMutual, I continued my many volunteer efforts. I was a volunteer fundraiser for the United Way, The Salvation Army, Bradley University, and other organizations. I even sat on the Community Foundation’s marketing committee.
In July 1999, the executive director of the Heart of Illinois United Way resigned to accept a position with United Way of Illinois. After he made his announcement and the search committee was being formed, he asked me if I had considered applying for the soon-to-be-vacated position. I told him I hadn’t and laughed at the thought of me being an employee instead of a volunteer for a local non-profit.
That evening I told my wife about the conversation and, to my surprise, she said that she just expected that I would and encouraged me to do so.
A week or so later, a client asked me to meet him for lunch. Not knowing the purpose of the meeting, I hurriedly reviewed his files so I would be prepared to answer any questions he might have about his account. Instead, he asked me if I had considered applying for the executive director position at the Peoria Area Community Foundation. This was a real surprise.
I submitted resumes to both organizations, went through the interviewing process, and ultimately removed my name from the United Way candidacy and accepted an offer from Peoria Area Community Foundation.
While I’ve enjoyed every employer I’ve ever worked for, this change was truly a blessing. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for being able to work for the Community Foundation.
Tell about the history of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois.
Under the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce’s community improvement committee, a task force re-examined the question of a community foundation for the Peoria area. An informal survey of community leaders in 1985 showed a consensus that a community foundation would be a valuable addition to the Peoria area and was, in fact, long overdue.
In late 1985, a steering committee was appointed. This steering committee was comprised of representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, Peoria Park District, United Way, Peoria Area Arts and Science Council, Junior League, CILCO, Caterpillar, Bradley University, and Forest Park Foundation and concluded the Peoria Area Community Foundation should be incorporated. This was done December 27, 1985. The temporary home for the Foundation was the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce.
The founding officers and directors were elected in November 1986. Officers were: Lew Burger, president; Ed Siebert, vice president; John Sahn, vice president; William Rutherford, secretary; and Warren Webber, treasurer. Directors were David Connor, Lynn Landes, Mary Sharp, William Vogelsang, and Jim Wogsland.
This volunteer board secured operating support from the business community, private foundations, and individual community leaders.
The Peoria Area Community Foundation formally opened for business when it hired its first executive director, Donna Haerr, in June 1988. In February 1989, Caterpillar presented the Peoria Area Community Foundation with its first gift. It was a significant gift of $500,000.
In 1991, a sister corporation, the Depository, was incorporated. In April 2002, the name of the Peoria Area Community Foundation was changed to Community Foundation of Central Illinois to better reflect a regional commitment.
What makes this organization unique?
The Community Foundation is unique in a variety of ways. Community foundations are independent of other private foundations or organizations. Community foundations serve to complement other resources. Experience has shown they serve as catalysts for attracting resources that might otherwise be lost to the community. For example, large private foundations such as the Joyce, Mott, Lily, and others have used community foundations to make substantial challenge grants to communities to build endowment capital.
Additionally, community foundations serve as centers for philanthropic information and as conveners of forums on expanding community resources for education, arts, and human services.
Community foundations are also unique in their quest for community endowment building. While many organizations encourage charitable gifts to their permanent endowment, only community foundations envision these endowment assets being used by future generations, our children and grandchildren, as they participate in issues and community problem solving that’s beyond our understanding today. To quote past president Vicki Stewart, “We link today’s donor with our community’s future.”
A few of the more unique services we’ve provided include:
- The Civic Center, in collaboration with Community Foundation of Central Illinois, made it possible for local performances of the Bolshoi Ballet and violinist Itzhak Perlman.
- The Peoria City Council used Community Foundation of Central Illinois as the repository for funds collected for vests for policemen.
- Local volunteers asked Community Foundation of Central Illinois to assist them in real estate ownership and fiscal management for the Haitian Hearts House.
- A Community Foundation of Central Illinois’ Donor Advised Fund provided the funding for the Sister City Clock Tower that sits between the Civic Center and City Hall.
- The Forman Valley Community Foundation used Community Foundation of Central Illinois to collect and manage funds for the use of building a new community swimming pool in Manito.
Describe the progress the Community Foundation has made over the years.
The Community Foundation has progressed in many ways over its 15-year history. For more than 13 years, the Caterpillar donation was our largest. In January 2002, Attorney Jerald Horn invited us to his office, whereupon he handed us a check for just under $1.5 million. This wonderful gift was from the estate of Jean Brown, and her goal—our task—was to provide scholarship assistance to nursing school students, especially students specializing in industrial nursing.
Mrs. Brown was a nurse; she was the first person Caterpillar hired as an industrial nurse. She remained with Cat for 43 years. Her dream was to establish a perpetual fund to financially assist others in need, allowing them to enter the nursing field, which she so loved. We like to think Mrs. Brown would have been proud to have participated in the reception we held last August, where we presented scholarship assistance to 24 promising young nursing school students.
Other indications of significant progress are that the level of the endowment pools, grants distributed, and numbers of new funds continue to grow.
While the Community Foundation has been affected by stock market losses, just as almost everyone else has, we still manage more than $11 million in total assets. Our endowment pool hovers around the $9 million mark, and the Depository balance bounces between $1.4 and $1.8 million.
During the 2001-2002 fiscal year, we were able to fund grants to local organizations in the amount of $463,000 and total donations flowing through both the Depository and the Community Foundation were $2,500,000. This level of granting has had a significant impact on our community.
Another sign of progress is the fact we are able to produce sufficient income to offset about 80 percent of our annual operating expenses. In our formative years, we were fortunate to receive a matching grant from the Mott Foundation and five-year grant commitments from Caterpillar Foundation and Bielfeldt Foundation.
We still must look to the community for financial assistance, but we continue to improve upon our goal of operations self-sufficiency.
What benefits do businesses and/or individuals receive by giving their charitable contributions through the Community Foundation?
- Convenience. We’re user friendly, and most funds can be opened in one meeting. We have experience in accepting appreciated assets—such as stocks, mutual funds, and real estate—thereby allowing for maximum tax efficiency.
- Flexibility. We accept modest gifts or large ones; you can name your fund or remain anonymous; your charitable purpose can be very broad in scope or very specific; future changes are easily handled; and donated assets range from cash to real estate to artwork.
- Charitable impact. We understand the needs and roles of the non-profit organizations in central Illinois communities. We can target grants where they do the most good. We can also do specific agency research for the donor.
- Tax advantage. Because we’re a public charity—not a private foundation—all donations qualify for the maximum available deduction for charitable contributions. Our funds also avoid excise and capital gains taxes
- Permanence. As living memorials, funds at the Community Foundation carry out your charitable interests in perpetuity.
- Timing. Depository clients almost always give stocks or mutual funds. They’ve found they can time the market, time their tax deduction, and time their ultimate agency gift.
- Record keeping. We provide quarterly statements that give our clients an up-to-date list of their annual charitable gifts.
- Donor services. Donors look to us for information and research on both local and national non-profit organizations or programs.
Why and how have some businesses set up their non-profit giving through the Foundation?
There are several ways businesses have benefited from using the Community Foundation. Sometimes the process is very simple and straight forward, while others are more complicated and may take a little time to complete. But the outcome is always the same in that the company is providing for a charitable need and also receiving the maximum allowable tax benefit.
Some examples of services that we provide to corporations are:
- RLI Insurance Company has several funds with the Community Foundation. They use us as the charitable distribution arm of their organization, much like other corporations use their own foundations. At the start of each year, RLI makes a stock gift to the Community Foundation. We immediately sell the stock and apply the proceeds to two funds: the RLI Corporate Fund and the RLI Employee Matching Gifts Fund.
The RLI Corporate Fund provides for their annual community contributions. The distributions committee of the Community Foundation is entrusted with the responsibility to use the RLI funds to provide grants that meet within the company’s guidelines and affect the community’s most compelling needs.
The RLI Employee Matching Gifts Fund is a perfect example of how the Community Foundation can assist a company with its back-room operations. Like many companies, as RLI employees make their personal charitable gifts, they know their employer will match that gift to the non-profit organization. The Community Foundation is the recipient of the matching gift form, confirms the gift falls within the company guidelines, contacts the non-profit, if necessary, to confirm it has a valid 501 (c) (3) IRS letter, and cuts and mails the check.
- Two other local companies have used the services of the Community Foundation’s distribution committee for their employee scholarship programs. Both companies look to our volunteer distribution committee to be the perfect disinterested third party decision-maker when it comes to deciding the recipient of an employer scholarship. All scholarship applications are mailed to the Community Foundation, where our volunteers review them and decide who should receive the scholarship.
- Several banks have found a donor-advised fund is an excellent way for them to fulfill their community charitable goals. These banks are able to take advantage of the same tax laws we as individuals use. They make gifts of highly appreciated assets such as stocks, bonds, or real estate. We sell the asset, thereby avoiding any capital gains taxes, and hold the proceeds in a fund in the donor’s name. The donor then is authorized to make suggestions for future gifts to be made from their fund. The board of directors reviews these suggestions, and, provided they’re within the parameters stated in the fund agreement and the grant is to a valid 501 (c) (3) organization, the suggested gift request will be funded. The benefits here are that the company was able to maximize their income tax benefit and avoid any unnecessary taxes, while providing money that can be used to provide charitable gifts for many years in the future.
The reasons for a business to use the Community Foundation as part of their charitable giving program are just as varied as those of individuals, but there’s one more benefit that is worth mentioning. The Community Foundation has been able to assist individuals who own their own companies. They hold stock in a closely held corporation, and they want to use this stock for charitable gifting purposes. The benefits here are not only philanthropic or in the tax benefits received with the immediate tax deduction and the avoidance of capital gains taxes, but it can also be a convenient method to transfer stock ownership at an increased cost basis for future benefits. These closely held stock transactions take some time and have specific requirements to conform to IRS regulations.
Who’s eligible to submit grants to the Foundation, and how is the grant money distributed?
From a grants perspective, the purpose of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois is to assist projects in the fields of education, arts, human services, community service, or community development, which advance one or more of the following objectives:
- Address and help resolve important existing or emerging community issues.
- Support new and creative projects and organizations offering the greatest opportunity for positive and significant change.
- Promote cooperation and collaboration among organizations.
- Identify, enhance, and develop leadership in the community through creative and innovative activities which empower individuals.
- Improve the quality or scope of charitable works in our community.
The Community Foundation of Central Illinois doesn’t provide grant funding for annual campaigns, individuals, endowments, or make grants for sectarian religious purposes. Any non-profit organization within a 50-mile radius of Peoria, with the exception of McLean County, which has Community Foundation of McLean County, may submit a grant proposal. The application deadlines are January 15, April 15, and October 15. Our grant guidelines are available by calling our office at 674-8730 or they can be found on our Web site at www.communityfoundationci.org.
All grant proposals are reviewed by our 19-member distribution committee. This committee is composed of volunteers representing divergent interests, genders, races, ages, and cities within our granting territory. As soon as a granting period closes, each proposal is photocopied and a package is mailed to each member of the distribution committee. The committee then has about two weeks to study and numerically grade each proposal. During this two-week period, the committee members may ask the staff to do additional research on the organization, or they may independently contact the organization.
The committee is then convened, each grant proposal is discussed, and the committee decides which grant proposals will be funded and at what level. The total funds available for distribution vary from grant period to grant period. The total funding available is based on market performance for the investment pool, new donor funds that might be available, and field-of-interest funds that are available.
Real estate and personal property can be donated to the Foundation. What are some of the more unique gifts that have been given?
The assets most frequently gifted to the Community Foundation are stocks, mutual funds, and cash. Several pieces of real estate have been gifted over the past several years and seem to be gaining in popularity.
Unique gifts we’ve received include a painting, sculpture, and a Lionel train collection. The painting was owned by a local family. After the parents were deceased, the adult children established an unrestricted fund in honor of their parents and funded it by gifting us this valuable piece of art. We were able to find a gallery that specialized in pieces from this artist. Through a consignment agreement, they sold the art, and the cash was used to establish a granting base for this family-named fund.
A sculpture was recently donated to the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois through the estate of a local benefactor. The sculpture hasn’t been sold yet, but the proceeds will go into a named fund that will make periodic distributions benefiting organizations and programs addressing current women’s issues.
The most unique asset so far has been the Lionel train collection. This is a true collection, with most pieces still in their original boxes. The appraised value of this collection is quite significant. We’ve engaged a local company to market and sell this collection on our behalf. Most of the collection was sold within the past year, and only a few pieces remain. The proceeds are being used to fund the donor’s Depository fund. The donor will be able to designate the future gifts to be distributed from this fund.
What are some of the requests of donors?
The majority of donor requests are for information about specific projects or our non-profits. With the explosion in the last decade of the number of non-profits and their use of telemarketers, donors just aren’t sure which organizations are creditable, where they’re located, and what their primary purpose might be.
Donors ask us to do research on specific organizations or specific projects. “Do you know anything about the Feed the Children Association in Dallas?” or “How is DARE funded, and how can I help them?”
There are a lot of other questions that come up when we’re working with a new donor and establishing their personal endowment fund. A few of the more frequent ones are “How do I remember my parents, daughter, son, coach, teacher?” or “How do I establish a fund that will provide college tuition assistance for children that are now in fourth grade at an inner-city school?” or “How do we design a donor advised fund we can use to help educate our children about philanthropy and that they would be able to administer after we’re gone?”
Explain the Leave a Legacy program, of which you’re a member.
Leave a Legacy is an educational initiative that began in Columbus, Ohio, in 1996. Statistics show roughly 70 percent of Americans make charitable gifts throughout their lifetime, but only 7 percent of us make charitable gifts at the time of our death. Leave a Legacy is an effort to assist non-profits and financial professionals in educating their donors and clients on the benefits of leaving charitable gifts to their favorite non-profits through their will or trust documents.
It’s a very simple process for individuals to provide a charitable gift through their estates. We’ve found donors either don’t know they can do it or, more likely, they’ve never been asked. Leave a Legacy educates and encourages non-profits and financial professionals to “make the ask.”
The Community Foundation of Central Illinois has its own Legacy Society. These are individuals who’ve either made gifts of $5,000 or more to the Community Foundation or have named us in their estate documents.
In your opinion, what are some of the current and most pressing social issues in our community?
There’s an old expression that says, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Today’s social issues are the same issues of the past. Educating our youth and caring for our seniors are at the top of the list, but issues we continue to battle pertain to family disintegration, workforce and economic development, racism, and an ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. The list goes on and on.
If I were required to boil it down to two or three, it would be education, jobs, and elder care. We must find ways to keep our kids in school, educate them, and prepare them to enter the job market. We also must have jobs available within the community, and these need to be jobs that provide a decent living and offer benefits like health insurance. We must also take care of our senior citizens. Nursing home costs, prescription costs, and health care costs in general have skyrocketed, and there’s no end in sight.
Many organizations in central Illinois are already addressing these issues. Peoria Public Schools is in the midst of its strategic planning process, the Workforce Development Commission has prepared a five-county study of workforce issues, and both Bel-Wood Nursing Home and Heartland Health Clinic are taking giant steps to better prepare themselves for the future. These are great initiatives, and they’ll require resources and support from many sources if they’re going to make a difference.
You’ve always been active in volunteer organizations. Why do you believe it’s important to stay involved with the community?
I’ll never forget being a teenager and asking my father why he spent so much time and worked so hard as a school board member. His response was this community has been very giving to our family and being on the school board was his way of repaying this debt. He never believed the community owed him anything—just the opposite. He was indebted to the community. My father was a great role model for commitment to both church and community.
My earliest memories at Security Savings and Loan, as a management trainee, are strong corporate principles dedicated to the development of community. The belief was you couldn’t be a good corporate leader without accepting your responsibility for the community.
Many years ago, a minister at my church would occasionally preach on the “laws of distribution,” the concept being the more you give away, the more you receive in return. One of my favorite authors is Og Mondino, a master writer on this subject. What I’ve found is “laws of distribution” apply to resources other than just financial—resources such as time and talent. The rewards and blessings I’ve received as a member of this community far outweigh any small contributions I’ve made.
What, if any, misperceptions are there regarding the Community Foundation?
The misconception we most frequently hear is you must be wealthy to establish a fund at Community Foundation of Central Illinois. We’ll open a donor-advised fund for as little as $5,000, provided the donor commits to raise it to $10,000 within a reasonable amount of time—say, five years. We have several scholarship funds established by memorial contributions from friends and relatives.
Working class individuals, with a passion for a cause, have opened funds with an initial $5,000 gift and ongoing annual gifts. Some of the community needs that will eventually receive grants from these donor-established funds are: mental health, homeless youth, family needs, anti-smoking awareness, scholarships for Irving Primary School students, and many other scholarships. We only require $5,000 to establish an endowment fund and $1,000 for a Depository Fund.
The misconception that was most difficult to overcome during our pre-formative and early operating years was that we would reduce the level of giving to other local non-profits. What actually has happened is we’ve enhanced the level of giving to other non-profits. Donors have made contributions to the Community Foundation of Central Illinois and instructed us on the one-time or perpetual distribution of those funds. Experience has shown we serve as a catalyst for attracting resources that might otherwise be lost to the community. Also, we’ve served as centers for philanthropic information and as conveners for forums on expanding community resources for education, arts, and human services.
What are the future plans of the Community Foundation?
Since our founding fathers were concerned that we shouldn’t step on the toes of all the existing non-profits, we’ve had a very quiet history. The Community Foundation Board of Directors believes this needs to change. We’ve proven to be an asset to the general community. The board of directors believes we should be a household name. Everyone in the central Illinois community should know of the various services we provide—whether as a donor or a grant recipient. Also, because we’re truly an unbiased third party, we need to be more proactive as a community convener and facilitator.
I’m aware of tens of millions of dollars individuals will be leaving to the Community Foundation through their estates. This is a very heavy and intimidating responsibility, and we must be prepared to fulfill our donors’ expectations, accept the responsibility to care for the public needs, and be aggressive in working towards economic development and social change. Our future is beyond our expectations. IBI