When Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Oprah Winfrey give money to worthy causes, it’s usually millions, or even billions, of dollars. But most charitable giving comes from everyday people in much smaller amounts. And that is at the heart of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.
The organization was started in 1978 by founders who wanted to help improve the metropolitan area but believed charitable giving should be the responsibility of many, not just a select few. They passed a hat, collected $210, and the Community Foundation was born. It has grown to a premier organization, consistently ranking in the top one percent of community foundations in the country in asset size ($2.4 billion), gifts received and grants made.
“We recognized early on that most donors in Kansas City already knew what causes they wanted to support. They simply needed a vehicle that would allow them to give efficiently,” says Debbie Wilkerson, president and CEO, and lifelong resident of the area.
And giving efficiently is just what the Community Foundation provides, making every gift count, whether it’s $25 or $25 million.
“Charitable giving accounts help donors organize and maximize their giving. The money in each account is invested, either in our investment pools or with the donor’s financial advisor, allowing the donor’s charitable impact to grow. We don’t require a minimum balance, and we encourage our donors to make grants to any public charities they care about as often as they want and in any amount,” says Wilkerson.
“When compared to private foundations, charitable giving accounts are inexpensive, confidential, and quick and easy to establish. And finally, at the end of each year, donors don’t have to sort through boxes of receipts to determine their total charitable tax deduction. Instead, they have one simple statement outlining all of their giving for the year.”
In addition to cash, donors can put stock or other assets into their funds.
“Our expertise in receiving complex gifts is exceptional,” explains Wilkerson. “We’re actually the first and only charity to receive, hold and sell a major league sports team – the Kansas City Royals! And we help our donors ensure they are receiving the maximum tax benefits for their donations.”
The Community Foundation has regional boards representing all areas of the metro, including the Eastland Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Johnson County, the Community Foundation of Wyandotte County and Northland Community Foundation. They also have two cultural boards, The Black Community Fund and the Hispanic Development Fund.
For those wanting help with charitable giving, but not wanting to open their own fund, the Community Foundation administers funds and accepts donations for a wide range of causes and organizations. Examples are Feed Northland Kids, which works in conjunction with Harvesters to provide BackSnacks to approximately 3,000 school age children each week, and the Hispanic Development Scholarship Fund, which recently presented $420,000 in college scholarships to 326 deserving students.
The Community Foundation also offers an array of Donor Education Programs to help individuals and families get the most out of their giving.
Continuing its efforts to make giving easy for everyone, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation created a unique Giving Card program in 2007.
Much like retail gift cards, Giving Cards can be given to celebrate birthdays, holidays or other special occasions. Giving Cards can be redeemed to benefit any 501(c)(3) public charity in the United States (including schools, churches and synagogues). Card recipients simply go online to redeem the card for their chosen charity.
“The response has been very positive, as it’s a step beyond the ‘Here’s a gift in your name’ philosophy,” Wilkerson says.
The program continues to grow each year, peaking during the holiday season. Giving Cards have become popular with companies that choose to customize Giving Cards with their logos and then use them as gifts for employees or clients.
Wilkerson, who has worked for the Community Foundation in various roles since 1998, became president and CEO in 2012. She says she loves seeing the impact that donors at every level are making in our city.
“First and foremost, it’s our neighbors here in Kansas City who, year after year, continue to awe and inspire us with their generosity.”
For more information, visit GrowYourGiving.org