Donating with a Cause

Before Herb Kirk died, he wanted to leave a lasting contribution to Bozeman, the community he called home for 47 years.

Prior to his death three years ago at age 106, he donated more than $25,000 to the Bozeman Area Community Foundation. That money was then set aside as a private endowment by the foundation.

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Every year, the Kirk family requests the endowment's interest be used to sponsor certain nonprofit organizations, Charlie Kirk, Herb's son and foundation board president, said.

"He wanted to make sure that his family was giving money forever," Kirk said. "We gave to 10 different charities last year."

Kirk shared his family's story with members of local nonprofit organizations Wednesday afternoon. A meeting was set up to explain what the foundation does, how it works and how local charities can benefit from it.

"We're a growing nonprofit and it seemed like a good opportunity to learn more about it," Penny Murray, director of the Children's Museum, said.

Organizers wanted to explain two key concepts -- sharing endowments and charitable gift annuities -- to local nonprofits, Steve Hample, founder of the foundation and a certified financial planner, said.

Many charitable organizations have their own small endowments that are a "pain" to manage, Hample said. He encouraged groups to transfer those small endowments to the foundation, which has the expertise needed to invest and manage them, paying the interest back to the original organization.

"With the dividends and interest we get, we use it to give checks to the community," Hample said.

In the six years the foundation has been operating, Hample said it has accumulated a $350,000 endowment, including small family endowments such as the Kirks' fund.

He'd like to see the endowment grow to more than $1 million. "If we have a larger amount, we can invest it more efficiently."

"I think this is incredibly exciting," said Jane Lerner, board president of the Heart of the Valley Humane Society. "I love the idea of getting the endowments merged. We, like many of you, have a teeny-tiny endowment. It's hard to manage. We don't have the staff."

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The foundation can also help nonprofit groups that have major donors who want their contributions spread over time.

Through the foundation, donors can create charitable gift annuities and receive tax benefits while putting their money to good use.

"An annuity is a lifetime stream of income," Hample explained. "Part goes to charity and part comes back to me in my retirement."

The Bozeman Area Community Foundation is one of only a few organizations in the state authorized to manage charitable gift annuities, Hample said.

All the work is done by volunteers like himself, all of whom have an interest in seeing the foundation grow.

"We're here to help you with the major donors," he said. "We have no paid staff. Our goal is to be very frugal and very efficient."

Source: 10-2004

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