What is a community foundation?
It is a registered charitable trust that is set up to inspire generosity in its local area, and provide ongoing support for the charities and community groups that operate there. It facilitates this by encouraging the establishment of “named endowment funds”. The capital remains invested forever, and it is the income that is distributed each year.
How does a community foundation work?
An individual (“the Donor”) is encouraged to set up a named endowment fund (“the Fund”) which is held and managed (like a sub-trust) as an endowment fund by the Community Foundation (“CF”).
Having set up the Fund, the Donor can contribute to it in whichever way best suits their personal situation. Gifts may be made during the Donor’s lifetime (in which case the Donor will receive a donation tax rebate of up to 30%); or upon the Donor’s death (ie. under the Donor’s Will); or both.
All money that is given to that Fund by the Donor is pooled and invested by the CF.
Each year the investment income is used to make distributions to the local community in accordance with the Donor’s wishes, so the capital remains intact and is future-proofed. This annual gifting continues forever: hence it is often called “the gift that keeps on giving”.
Which charities receive grants from the funds?
This is entirely up to the Donor who sets up the Fund.
The Donor may specify particular charities or charitable purposes that are to receive the annual distributions; or the Donor may leave the gift “unrestricted”, in which case the CF allocates it where it believes the need is greatest each year.
Many Donors choose both: they specify that a certain percentage of the distribution is to go to particular charities, and leave the rest unrestricted.
Are there other community foundations in New Zealand?
Community Foundations are one of the fastest growing forms of philanthropy internationally, and have been operating for over 100 years in the United States. They are particularly strong in Canada.
Community Foundations have been operating in New Zealand for over 20 years. They operate independently with different names and there are now 14 throughout New Zealand as follows:
Acorn Foundation (Tauranga)
Eastern Bay Community Foundation (Whakatane) Geyser Foundation (Rotorua and Taupo)
Sunrise Foundation (Gisborne)
Hawkes Bay Foundation
Te Karaka Foundation (Taranaki)
Nikau Foundation (Wellington)
Nelson Bays Community Foundation
Aoraki Foundation (Timaru)
Advance Ashburton Community Foundation
Are community foundations successful?
Yes: very. The success of the individual CF depends of course on the efforts of the CF itself and the community response. As an example, the Acorn Foundation which was established in Tauranga in 2002, today makes annual distributions to a wide range of community organisations. In 2016 this amounted to $780,000 and this figure will increase every year as the amount of the capital fund increases. Acorn currently has over $30 million invested. Most significant, Acorn has over 270 Donors who have signed up and established their own Funds.
Donors often contribute to their Fund over time and many also make a gift through their Will (the total value of those gifts in Wills , based on current information, is likely to be in the $175 million-$225 million range). In the meantime the Acorn Foundation has developed a wonderful reputation in its community as a serious funder.
Other community foundations are having outstanding success as they build up their resources for what is a medium-long term project. The total amount of the Funds has unlimited potential.
More significantly, it gives people a very real opportunity to “give back” to their community without any cost to them, and only an opportunity cost to the other beneficiaries of their Wills.
What does a community foundation actually do?
You don’t have to be wealthy to make a difference. Creating a compassionate, caring community just needs kind and thoughtful people. The CF aims to make the process as easy and rewarding as possible so that everyone can contribute in a way that works best for them, whether that be giving during their lifetime, or in their Will, or both.
Manages each Endowment Fund
While each Fund is separately monitored and accounted for, the capital of each Fund is invested in combination with all other Funds to spread the investment risk and achieve economies of scale.
The CF appoints an investment manager (usually a national sharebroking firm) and has an Investment Advisory Committee to oversee all investment recommendations. The CF liaises with the Donors and reports each year on grants that have been made from each Donor’s Fund.
Distributes Income Each Year
Distributions of between 3.5% and 5% from each Fund are made annually. Sometimes the CF assists Donors with “Pass Through” funds where the whole gift(and not just the income) is distributed. The CF makes all distributions in accordance with the instructions which have been made by the Donor at the time when the Fund was created.
Where the Fund is wholly or partially unrestricted, the CF invites applications from local charities and community groups, and allocates those funds based on identified priorities.
The CF’s Distributions Committee receives applications, and makes recommendations to the CF Board as to how the available funds shall be distributed.
What are the benefits to the Donor?
Donors giving during their lifetime derive real pleasure from seeing their money making a difference in their community now.
People who choose to give a gift in their Will love knowing that what they have worked and saved for will provide lasting benefit to their community, for generations to come.
CFs recognise that when making their Wills, Donors will, of course first want to provide for their family first. If the Donor is prepared to leave part of their estate to the community through a CF, then they are encouraged to give a percentage rather than a specific amount. In this way, the amount of the gift is not too much and not too little.
By way of an example:
Donors with children often leave 90% to their children and 10% to the CF
Donors who do not have children or close family often leave 50% (or sometimes more) to the CF.
Avoids problems of a private charitable trust
Some people like the idea of setting up their own private charitable trust, to continue making donations on their behalf when they have gone. Some of the issues to bear in mind with this choice include:
Who will continue to manage the Trust after the Donor and the Donor’s advisers have passed on?
Economies of scale
The compliance requirements and the costs associated with properly managing a Trust mean that the annual administration costs can reduce the effectiveness of the gift.
Return on capital will be enhanced by reason of bulk investment.
Establishing a Fund through a CF has much the same effect as establishing a private charitable trust, but without these problems.
Some of our Donors do have an active private charitable trust but they have provided that when they die, it will become a Fund that becomes managed by the CF, which overcomes the challenges outlined above.
What are the benefits to the charities
Regular future income
Most charities desperately need an ongoing passive income source.
Where a Donor nominates a particular charity, that charity knows it will continue to receive that income forever without having to go to the cost and uncertainty of making application for grants.
The charity can rely on that income and budget accordingly.
Asset not recorded in financial accounts
If a charity is holding investment funds to maintain an income flow, this sometimes renders the charity ineligible for other funding.
If the investments are owned by the CF, the charity receives the annual donation, but the invested capital is not listed in the charity’s financial accounts.
Expert investment advice
The charity itself does not have to worry about making investment decisions, and can focus on serving its community. CFs have very favourable arrangements with their investment managers and the benefit of these arrangements are indirectly passed on to the charity through lower costs.
Extra source of funding
Even if a charity has not been specified by any Donor, the charity can apply to the CF for part of the income from the unrestricted Funds.
This is particularly valuable for new or emerging charities.
Increased charitable giving
CFs are helping to change people’s attitude towards leaving gifts to charity in their Wills. Sometimes people decide to leave capital gifts direct to a charity as well as (or instead of) making the gift through the CF. This means that the charity may receive a gift it would not have otherwise received.
How is the Wakatipu Community Foundation funded
All CF Trustees and Committee Members are volunteers.
There are however operating costs and CFs are very conscious of the need to keep these costs to a minimum, while still providing a sustainable professional service.
In order to cover these costs most CFs ask Donors to make an initial donation of $5,000 (payable when the Fund is established or on the Donor’s death, whichever the Donor prefers). In addition, 1% of the capital of the Fund is donated to the CF each year for its administration.
CFs also seek funding support from funders such as the Tindall Foundation until such time as the CF becomes self-sustaining.