By Warren Lawrence
Kalamazoo County is fortunate to have one of the oldest, most experienced, largest community foundations in the country. Dr. W.E. Upjohn started the Kalamazoo Community Foundation (KFC) in 1925 with a donation of $1,000. Today the KCF has approximately $400 million dollars in assets and shepherds over $800 endowment funds throughout the county. Because the funds were established “in perpetuity” the motto of Michigan’s community foundations is: “For Good. For Ever.”
What exactly is an endowment fund? Is a question that is often asked. Basically, it is a special charitable fund that is invested for some specific or general purpose. What makes an endowment fund so unique is that the principal in the fund can never be spent.
Every year, the fund generates interest and a portion of the fund’s growth that can be used for some charitable cause. The easiest and most popular way to create an endowment fund is through a community foundation. The main purpose is to assist in creating, administering and investing endowment funds. Every county in the state of Michigan is covered by at least one community foundation. In the northern part of the state, where the population lessens, sometimes a community foundation may cover several counties.
In Vicksburg, virtually every non-profit agency has at least one endowed fund in the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. The Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation (VCSF) has a total of eighteen separate endowment funds. Twelve of the funds are for scholarships; three of the funds are for designated purpose programs, for things like teacher incentive grants or programs that assist at risk students; and the remaining three endowment funds are for general purpose grants. The total financial assets for the growing VCSF endowment funds are at a record $1,553,000.
The VCSF was created in 1983 “…to encourage innovation in teaching and learning.” When they began, the VCSF trustees had zero monies in their coffers. Over the years, thanks to the strong community support, the school foundation has been able to make an ever increasing impact on innovation in the district’s educational programs.
In addition to the Vicksburg schools, several other greater Vicksburg area non-profit organizations have developed endowment funds. South County Community Services (SCCS), Vicksburg Community Schools Athletic Boosters Fund, the Vicksburg District Library, the Vicksburg Historical Society, the Vicksburg Rotary Club and the Vicksburg Foundation all have separate endowment funds, housed at KCF. In their year-end 2013 newsletter, Generous Hands, Inc. announced that they were within $1,000 of the required $50,000 needed to create an endowment fund in the KCF.
The Vicksburg Foundation has played a pivotal role in supporting the creation of some of these local agency endowments. If an organization is a non-profit with a 501c3 designation by the IRS, the Vicksburg Foundation may consider assisting the agency in reaching the required $50,000 by offering a dollar for dollar matching grant of up to $25,000. The collaboration within the greater Vicksburg community, along with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation is producing solid, financial support now and for the future. When a person donates to any of these local endowment funds, their donation may be eligible for a state and federal tax deduction. (The donor will need to check with a tax adviser for further information.)
Local endowment funds held in the Kalamazoo Community Foundation offer citizens the opportunity to support the building of a legacy that will have an impact both today and tomorrow. “For Good. For Ever.”