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A Publication of WTVP

Having served as CEO of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois (CFCI) for over two and a half years, I have learned that there are three schools of thought when it comes to the general public’s perception of our organization.

There is a relatively small group of people in our community who are very familiar with CFCI and our work, and they enthusiastically support our mission. There is a somewhat larger group that conceptually understands that CFCI is “doing good” on behalf of the community, but they aren’t really sure what it is we do. Finally, there is a large group that has no idea about what CFCI does, or sometimes, that we even exist. Since I believe that having a broad mix of informed community stakeholders on board is critical to the future success of CFCI, I would like to take this opportunity to provide a few details about community foundations in general, and CFCI specifically, that some may find helpful.

People Helping People
Community foundations are tax-exempt public charities serving thousands of people who share a common interest in improving the quality of life in their area. Community foundations really know their communities, including what their needs are and how to address them. They share the interests of community members, and they care about the future.

Individuals, families, businesses and organizations create permanent charitable funds that help their region meet the challenges of changing times. Community foundations invest and administer these funds. All community foundations are overseen by a volunteer board of leading citizens and run by professionals with expertise in identifying their communities’ needs.

The core mission of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois is to help better our community by “Connecting People Who Care with Causes That Matter.” We serve as a gateway to strategic philanthropy, charitable giving and volunteerism for individuals, families, not-for-profit organizations and corporations in our region, allowing people to support their particular areas of interest or concern. We accomplish this mission by creating permanent endowment funds and planned gifts to provide an ongoing source of funding for our community. In a nutshell, we are a “savings account for the community.”

CFCI works hard to increasingly understand how the permanent charitable funds created by our donors can be used most effectively to benefit the community today and into the future. Foundation staff plays a critical role in this process by being educated about the state of nonprofits in our community, and our volunteer board and committees leverage this expertise by judging grant requests and making good decisions about how to allocate funds to support community initiatives.

In my opinion, this is really the beauty of the way community foundations are organized. At its heart, our process is about community members helping community members…people helping people. An old Chinese proverb states that “one generation plants the trees, another gets the shade.” Our community is benefitting today from the work those before us have done in growing this organization. The community will benefit from the work that we are doing today over the next 20, 50, 100 years and beyond.

A Charitable Checking Account
Changing gears slightly, I want to highlight CFCI’s Depository, a service that is of special note to many members of our community. The Depository is frequently described as a “charitable checking account” that helps make charitable giving easy and efficient. Donors make charitable donations to their private Depository accounts using appreciated assets such as securities, qualifying for an immediate tax deduction and helping to avoid capital gains taxes. The appreciated asset is then sold by the Depository, and the proceeds, less transaction fees, are deposited into an account in the donor’s name. The donor then directs our staff from time to time to distribute their funds to the charities of their choice. We write checks, do the recordkeeping, and track the contributor’s charitable activities—all of which are free to the contributor. In the last fiscal year, we distributed over $3 million from the Depository.

I frequently point out that the Depository is a terrific option when considering one’s retirement plan assets. Donors who are over 70 ½ years old and are required to take withdrawals from an IRA or other qualified retirement account may want to consider making a charitable gift using all or a portion of the mandatory withdrawal amount. Giving in this way may result in little or no tax impact when reporting the amount withdrawn along with an offsetting charitable deduction. As always, I encourage current and prospective Depository account holders to check with their financial advisors to determine how this might apply to their individual situations.

The Community Foundation of Central Illinois is delighted to play an integral role in the distribution of charitable capital in our community. At a time when every single charitable dollar is critically important, we all must increasingly work together to leverage our resources for the common good. This points out the importance of having a diverse mix of committed and caring community members involved at all times, and consistently executing a solid plan of attack in responding to emerging community needs.

I also want to point out that the Community Foundation belongs to all of us. Everyone who lives or works in central Illinois is a stakeholder, and we all have a voice in working to make our community a better place. As such, I would like to encourage members of our community to get involved with CFCI. We want to know “what is your dream” for our community? We will sit with you, listen closely, and then work to help you make the greatest possible impact on the issues you care most about. Working together, our ability to leave a legacy for our community is nearly limitless. iBi

For more information, visit communityfoundationci.org.

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