Fund strikes it rich 

It’s almost a cliché now—businesses, nonprofits and municipalities tightening their belts against the ever expanding financial crisis. But despite the economic downturn, one local nonprofit says it has managed to raise over $1.7 million in 2008.

But the exciting part, the “really cool part,” says Missoula Community Foundation board member Dale Woolhiser, is the sophisticated giving strategies behind the donations. Woolhiser, a vice-president in the Missoula office of Merrill Lynch, says some of the techniques are peculiar to Montana and community foundations.

“Three years ago, I didn’t even know about these,” he says.

The bulk of the donations come from a single individual. A charity—Woolhiser won’t say who—put the community foundation in touch with a donor—again, Woolhiser won’t say who—to help manage a massive $1.2 million contribution. Utilizing what’s called a donor advised fund, the donor receives tax benefits and retains a say in how the money gets spent, but agrees to leave the management of the fund to the community foundation. In this case, Woolhiser says, the donor intends to give 5 percent a year to charity, which, if the fund can sustain itself, amounts to some $60,000 per year.

Woolhiser says another contributor wishing to give $500,000 established a charitable remainder trust, a strategy allowing the donor to enjoy interest and dividend payments in perpetuity. But at death, the fund will be distributed to designated charities.

The Missoula Community Foundation has supported more than 50 projects during the past seven years with over $100,000, supporting local institutions like the Missoula Art Museum and Missoula Children’s Theater. Foundation leaders say they aim to help charities and donors get the most bang for their buck.

“What we really do,” says board member Rick Wishcamper, “is connect people who care with causes that matter.”
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