Life Without Me at the Community Foundation

About 10 years ago, Dick Egan – my friend and, at the time, board chair of the Door County Community Foundation – shared a perspective that completely turned my thinking on its head. He fundamentally reshaped how I view the responsibility of a charity’s board of directors relative to its CEO.

I am the president and CEO of the Door County Community Foundation. At other charities, the highest-paid professional staff person is the executive director. Although there are some important differences between a president and CEO and an executive director, for purposes of this article, let’s just refer to a nonprofit’s highest-ranking paid staff person as its CEO.

Almost all CEOs who have spent a lifetime in the charitable sector share at least one common perspective: We see board members come and go every year. Even the best board member serves only a handful of terms of a couple of years each. Thus we, as CEOs, consider ourselves to be the providers of stability and continuity in our respective organizations. Indeed, there is a lot of truth in that idea, yet Egan had a different point of view. He said, “The board is here forever. The CEO is not.”

He wasn’t disagreeing with my perspective. Now in my 13th year at the Community Foundation, I have provided stability and continuity as members of our board have come and gone. Yet he was reminding me that the board of the Door County Community Foundation as a whole was here before me and will continue to exist long after I’m gone.

For those charitable CEOs who consider our profession a calling, the line between what is personal and professional often gets blurred. If you’re blessed with a job that is closely aligned with your skills and values, eventually it’s no longer possible to achieve any personal success in your career without commensurate organizational success. Your very identity becomes intertwined with your work. At its best, this kind of leader allows a charity to enjoy a lengthy period of impactfulness and prosperity that far exceeds anything that would have been achieved by a more dispassionate executive.

However, there is one great limitation among CEOs who have this kind of personal commitment. Eventually it becomes hard for those who view their life’s work as a vocation to imagine anyone else at the helm.

That’s why it’s so important to recognize that the board will be there forever, but the CEO will not. The board of every charity needs to look beyond the term of even the most talented and committed CEO to ensure that thought has been given to life without that leader.

There are lots of highly effective nonprofit CEOs in Door County who, I hope, will remain in their current positions for many years to come. Yet inevitably, change will come, and hopefully those transitions will be planned and executed in an orderly fashion. But unfortunately, sometimes life just happens, and fate ignores the plans we’ve made. If a charity plays an important role in Door County, then we need to ensure that it can thrive even after the most inspiring CEO has moved on.

This is a conversation we’ve been having at the Door County Community Foundation for several years now. Although I wouldn’t presume to include myself on a list of the most talented nonprofit CEOs, I do believe that during the last dozen years, I have developed and demonstrated a personal commitment that goes far beyond that of a hired gun. That’s a good thing, and it’s something we should hope every important charity in our community experiences.

Yet we never know what surprises life has waiting for us just around the corner. Thus the Community Foundation’s board has rightfully pushed me to prepare our organization for a future without me at the helm. That has led to reimagining our structure, shifting responsibilities, documenting processes and planning to create new positions. Our goal is to build an even more vibrant and impactful Community Foundation that we are certain will thrive forevermore.

The board of every important charity needs to do the same thing: Look beyond the term of your current CEO to ensure that you’re prepared for the transition that inevitably will come.

Personally, I plan to do what I do at the Door County Community Foundation until I’m not physically or mentally able to do it anymore because I simply cannot imagine having a good life without this work. But there will be a day when the Community Foundation will have a good life without me.

This article was written by Bret Bicoy, President and CEO of the Door County Community Foundation and originally appeared in the Peninsula Pulse.

Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to the Sturgeon Bay School District

The Door County Community Foundation has awarded Sturgeon Bay School District a sustainability grant from the Ruth and Hartley Barker Memorial Fund, the Children and Youth Fund, and Arts Endowment Fund. This grant supports a visit from children’s book author and illustrator, Nathan Hale.

Nathan Hale will spend one day at each of the four Door County mainland school districts to give presentations to students in grades K-8.  Additionally, the school districts are partnering with the Door County Reading Council to offer one evening workshop presentation with Nathan Hale for families and community members.

res_1579212634415 (2)“In his school talks, students will have the opportunity to ask Hale questions, learn about how he writes and illustrates his books, and maybe even try some writing of their own,” said Kacie Mueller, Community Relations Officer of the Door County Community Foundation. “Getting these children excited about the writing process at a young age, sets them up to enjoy reading and writing for a lifetime. We are pleased to contribute to that fundamental joy.”

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

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Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to the Door County Medical Center Dental Clinic

The Door County Community Foundation has awarded the Door County Medical Center a Sustainability Grant from the Ruth & Hartley Barker Memorial Fund and the John and Nell Herlache Community Impact Fund. This grant supports the Door County Medical Center Dental Clinic.

The Door County Medical Center Dental Clinic provides oral health care to the youth and adults of Door and Kewaunee Counties. The clinic serves those who are on Medicaid and/or those with no dental insurance that are low-income with no dental home.

“The Dental Clinic is the only clinic in a two-county area that provides care to those on medical assistance, those that are disabled, and those that are low income,” said Mark Jinkins, board member of the Door County Community Foundation. “The Community Foundation is pleased to provide this grant which will help cover the costs of providing care to uninsured children and adults in our community.

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Ente“The Dental Clinic is the only clinic in a two county area that provides care to those on medical assistance, those that are disabled, and those that are low income,” said Mark Jinkins, board member of the Door County Community Foundation. “The Community Foundation is pleased to provide this grant which will help cover the costs of providing care to uninsured children and adults in our community.” 

 

 

Founded in 1975 Door County Medical Center Dental Clinic provides oral health care to the youth and adults of Door and Kewaunee Counties. The clinic serves those who are on Medicaid and/or those with no dental insurance that are low-income with no dental home.

For more information about the Door County Medical Center Foundation, please call (920) 746-1071 or visit http://www.ministryhealthy.org/DCMH/home/Foundation.org.

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

Giving to Charity Makes Us Happy

“If you want to feel good, you have to go out and do some good.”

Oprah Winfrey articulated a fundamental value that many of us share, but sentiment isn’t sufficient for scientists.

Thus researchers set out to answer a complex question: Can people enrich their own lives through charitable giving? The answer brings us to a beautiful place where hard science and the human spirit intersect.

Research demonstrates that giving does indeed make us happier. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University published the study “Charitable Giving and Life Satisfaction” in 2017. The researchers stated their conclusion with wonderful simplicity: “The more a household gives as a percentage of income, the higher the household’s life satisfaction.”

Their findings are universal. Whether your income is less than $50,000 per year or several times more, the trend holds true. It doesn’t matter whether you’re married, cohabitating or single: The more you contribute to charity, the happier you are.

Of course, there are variations as to the degree of improvement in life satisfaction that each demographic group experiences with increased charitable giving. Statistically speaking, single men are traditionally the group least likely to donate all. Not surprisingly then, the study found that single men receive the greatest boost in life satisfaction when they do become donors for the first time.

With both single and married women, on the other hand, the act of giving has a cumulative effect that accelerates their life satisfaction. It’s exactly the opposite of the diminishing returns you’d expect with most things that we think make us happy. Women experience more happiness with the next dollar they give away than they did with the last dollar.

These findings are consistent with what other scientists have discovered. Studies published by the American Psychological Association as well as researchers in the United Kingdom have demonstrated many positive links between the amount of money and time a person donates to charity and their psychological well-being and physical health.

In the 2017 study “A Neural Link between Generosity and Happiness,” published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers noted that “generous behavior is costly” because obviously you’re giving away your time and/or money. Yet generosity is commonplace in our world, and thus “standard economic theory fails to explain generous behavior.”

These scientists wanted to see whether there was an observable neurological and physiological basis that explains the fundamental human desire to be generous with others. They randomly divided the study participants into two groups. The first group was instructed to spend a sum of money for other people’s benefit during a four-week period; the second was told to spend the money on themselves. At the end of the month, the participants were put into an MRI machine. In the participants who were generous with others, the researchers mapped increased neurological activity in the areas of the brain that are associated with increased levels of happiness. In other words, giving feels good.

The work of neurological scientists aligns with the conclusions of psychologists and the research of social scientists: There is neurological evidence linking a person’s willingness to give to others and their own life satisfaction.

This is something I experience virtually every week in my professional life. One of the primary roles of the Door County Community Foundation is to facilitate gifts from estate plans to charities and causes in the community. In my field, the old saying is that “you don’t give to the community foundation; you give through the community foundation.”

Thus far in my career, I’ve had the privilege of assisting hundreds of families whose estate plans have – or one day will – collectively donate almost a quarter of a billion dollars to charity. I’ve sat with an older woman on a fixed income who is leaving $10,000 to help our local kids as well as a wealthy couple whose estate will eventually contribute more than $30 million to fund a wide range of charitable activities.

Regardless of how much money is involved, all these people have one thing in common: They universally experience a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction because of the charitable legacy they’re creating.

Almost inevitably, when we finish planning for the charitable part of an estate plan, these generous people thank me for the Community Foundation’s assistance. Just stop to think about that for a moment: They are thanking me. The scientists finally can explain why: Giving to charity makes us happy.

 

This article, written by Community Foundation President & CEO Bret Bicoy, originally appeared in the Peninsula Pulse.

Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to the United Way of Door County

The Door County Community Foundation has awarded a Sustainability Grant to the United Way of Door County from the Ruth & Hartley Barker Memorial Fund, the Carol Coryell Charitable Fund, and the Health & Human Needs Fund. This grant supports the STRIDE Program.

STRIDE (Strengthening Trust and Resilience, Instilling Independence, and Discovering Empowerment) is an initiative dedicated to removing barriers to access quality mental health treatment for Door County youth.

“The overall focus of the program is to provide mental health services, utilizing mental health providers, on-site in all five Door County schools during school hours,” said Kacie Mueller, Community Relations Officer of the Door County Community Foundation. “We are pleased to support this initiative which will support the students of Door County.”

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Pictured is Dakota Londo, Community Impact Coordinator for United Way of Door County.

The mission of United Way of Door County is to build a community where all people can achieve their full potential through education, financial stability and healthy lifestyles. For more information on The Ridges Sanctuary, please visit www.unitedwaydc.com.

 

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and the Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.

Revisiting Predictions about Charitable Giving

Political prognosticators love to make extreme claims on how a new policy will affect the future, then conveniently forget their predictions when the doom they imagined never arrives. In an effort to avoid being lumped in with those gasbags, I thought it would be intellectually honest to revisit a prediction I made one year ago.

In September 2018, I wrote the column “The Impending Decline in Charitable Giving” , in which I voiced a concern of many experts that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018 would decrease the amount Americans donate to charities every year. The annual Giving USA report was recently published, so we now have a full year’s worth of hard data to review.

As a refresher, the anticipated decline in charitable giving was rooted in the fact that changing the standard deduction (from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples) would dramatically reduce the number of households that itemize deductions.

This prediction by tax experts on both sides of the political aisle has come true. In 2016, more than 46 million households itemized their deductions. In 2018, only about 18 million did.

Taxpayers can claim a tax deduction for charitable gifts only if they itemize their deductions. Hence, the new tax law eliminated the deduction for contributions made by 28 million households. Although most of us give for altruistic reasons, financial incentives still matter. By removing the financial incentive to donate, experts predicted that charitable giving would decline.

We can definitively say that the prediction has become reality. Giving USA found that donations from individuals fell by an inflation-adjusted 3.4 percent last year. Unfortunately, that’s not the only troubling indicator.

Total giving consists of donations from individuals, foundations, corporations and bequests. Individual giving tumbled to just 68 percent of total giving, the first time it’s fallen below 70 percent since 1954.

My personal belief is that giving will decline in 2019 as well. Most people don’t follow tax-law changes closely and didn’t realize their donations were no longer deductible until April’s tax deadline. For those families, the loss of the financial incentive to give will have its greatest effect in 2019.

Please note that I’m not commenting on the wisdom of the new tax law – that’s above my pay grade. An argument can be made that putting more money into taxpayers’ pockets is better for our nation. I certainly hope that proves to be true. However, the inescapable reality is that charitable giving is falling, and it is in my job description to figure out how Door County can adapt to the laws of the land.

That’s where a tool long offered by community foundations is more important than ever. At community foundations across the country, we are combining a tool called a Donor Advised Fund with the tax strategy of “bunching.” In effect, this “restores” the deductibility of charitable gifts for many families.

Consider a real example of a couple at the Door County Community Foundation. Bob and Sally Johnson (not their real names) are retired and annually donate about $12,000 to charity. Before the new tax law, the Johnsons’ itemized deductions included their donations, Wisconsin taxes and medical expenses. With the new tax law, they found themselves claiming the standard deduction of $24,000 and thus received absolutely no tax benefit for their $12,000 in contributions.

Thus Bob and Sally recently created the Johnson Family Fund, a Donor Advised Fund at the Door County Community Foundation. They plan to “prefund” their charitable giving for the next four years by donating $50,000 into their fund before 2019 ends. As a result, the Johnsons will claim itemized deductions of about $60,000 this tax year. Then in tax years 2020, 2021 and 2022, they will claim the standard deduction of $24,000 and make no direct contributions at all. Instead, they will donate $12,000 each year to their favorite charities in Door County (and beyond) from their Donor Advised Fund.

Bunching several years’ worth of contributions through a Donor Advised Fund at your local community foundation is proving to be an exceptionally effective tax-planning tool for many families that once itemized their deductions but now claim the standard deduction. If Bob and Sally use highly appreciated stock to make their $50,000 contribution, their tax savings will be magnified even more as they avoid capital-gains taxes.

Talk with your tax-planning professional to determine whether bunching several years’ worth of charitable gifts through a Donor Advised Fund might help you maintain your level of giving. Our charities need all the help they can get.

This article, written by Community Foundation President and CEO Bret Bicoy, originally appeared in the Peninsula Pulse

Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to Northern Sky Theater

The Door County Community Foundation has awarded the Ridges Sanctuary a Sustainability Grant from the Arts Fund. This grant supports a hearing loop for Northern Sky’s new creative campus.

“It is important that folks of all abilities are able to enjoy Northern Sky’s special brand of music theater,” said Rob Davis, Board Member of the Door County Community Foundation. “We are pleased to support the hearing loop which magnetically transmits sound to hearing aids and cochlear implants so that guests with hearing loss can receive clear, customized sound inside their ears.”

 

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Pictured from left to right are Rob Davis, Board Member of the Door County Community Foundation, and Holly Feldman, Director of Development and Public Relations at Northern Sky Theate

The mission of Northern Sky Theater is to create, develop and present professional musical and dramatic productions that will further the knowledge and appreciation of the culture and heritage of the United States.

For more information on Northern Sky Theater, please visit http://www.northernskytheater.com.

The Door County Community Foundation’s Sustainability Grants program distributes grant dollars from funds such as the Arts Fund, Children & Youth Fund, Green Fund, Health & Human Needs Fund, Education Fund, Historic Preservation Fund, Healthy Water Fund, and the Women’s Fund.

For more information about the Community Foundation’s services and various grant programs, please visit www.GiveDoorCounty.org.

The Door County Community Foundation, Inc. is a collection of separate charitable funds set up by individuals, families, non-profit organizations, private foundations and businesses that are managed, invested and disbursed for the current and future good of Door County. The Community Foundation was launched in 1999, currently administers more than $22 million in assets, and distributes nearly $2 million to charities in Door County every year.