Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Wisconsin

The Door County Community Foundation has awarded Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Wisconsin a Sustainability Grant from Health and Human Needs Fund and the Children and Youth Fund. This grant provides financial assistance to support the enhancement of Door County programming.

Big Brothers Big Sisters programs match volunteer mentors with Door County youth. The program is designed to support healthy behaviors and decision-making which leads to positive academic, socio-emotional and behavioral outcomes. These positive outcomes lead to improved high school graduation rates, the avoidance of juvenile delinquency, readiness for post-secondary educational opportunities, and improved employment opportunities.

Pictured is Katie Hess, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Wisconsin

 “ The youth mentoring program prepares these young community members to be more productive citizens by helping improve their confidence, relationship skills, and attitudes,” said Sally O’Brien, Board Chair of the Door County Community Foundation.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Wisconsin is a donor and volunteer supported nonprofit organization that professionally matches youth with mentors.  Since 1972, communities in Northeastern Wisconsin have been enriched by Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission to make a positive difference in the lives of youth through professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring relationships.  The program is based on the documented premise that youth need the influence of mature, responsible and supportive mentors during their formative years in order to reach their full potential as adults.

For more information regarding the programs and services provided by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeastern Wisconsin, please call 920-498-2227 or visit www.bbbsnew.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 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.

My Frustration with COVID-19

I counted 146 cars lined up for food in an aerial photo of the Door County Food Pantry Coalition’s distribution at the Sturgeon Bay fairgrounds Aug. 5. The photo was taken 15 minutes before the first box was even handed out. Looking at the line, I was frustrated, and I was embarrassed.

Like so many of us, I’ve been frustrated by how much COVID-19 has disrupted my life and that of my wife and children. Yet I’m embarrassed because my personal discomfort is nothing compared to the struggles some people are facing in our community – people such as those who lined up Aug. 5 for that most basic of necessities: food.

I’m frustrated that we didn’t get to properly celebrate the accomplishments of our youngest son, Kekoa, who graduated from UW-Madison at the age of 19 after completing his degree in just two years. Instead of marching into Camp Randall to accept his degree in mathematics and economics, Kekoa stared at a computer screen and watched a commencement speaker make an address from his kitchen table.

I’m frustrated because our middle son, Bret Jr., worked hard to graduate from college in three years and earn an enormous scholarship from Michigan State College of Law, only to be told just four days after he arrived in Michigan that his classes were all moving online.

I’m frustrated because our middle daughter, Nalani, moved into her freshman dorm at UW-La Crosse but has to remain largely isolated from other students. I’m frustrated because our youngest daughter, Malia, is attending her junior year of high school online from a lonely corner of our house.

The list of my frustrations goes on and on. My wife, Cari, and I didn’t play volleyball this summer. We can’t spend Sunday mornings with our church family. Our trips to Florida, Texas and South Carolina were all canceled. Our weekly trivia night with friends over dinner and beer at the Brick Lot is a distant memory.

But my family is incredibly lucky compared to many others. We are not one of the 6 million Americans who have contracted the virus. My wife and I were not furloughed from work, nor are we among the 40 million people who have lost their job. There are many people whose lives have been disrupted in ways far more profound than anything my family has endured.

That day at the fairgrounds, 500 people received food from the coalition. A week later, the coalition set up another food-distribution event in Sister Bay for families in northern Door County. It has been doing this all summer long. The coalition (FeedDoorCounty.org), in partnership with United Way, has been hosting food-distribution events at various locations for several months. These massive efforts are coordinated by people who are far more organized than I am, so when I do attend, I simply try not to get in the way.

At one of these events, the coalition ran out of food, so I was asked to speak with families that we had to turn away. I told an older woman whose husband had dementia that we couldn’t help them that day. I told a young woman with three small children in the back seat of a very old car that we had run out of food. She broke down crying.

As frustrating as COVID-19 is to me, I cannot fathom how frustrating this health and economic crisis is for those who aren’t as lucky and privileged as I am.

Although July and August have been strong months in tourism, Door County got a late start. It also seems likely that far fewer buses with leaf-seeking visitors will be here this fall. The most recent Door County unemployment rate was almost three times normal. Many local families that live off seasonal wages won’t earn enough this summer to carry them through the winter.

It’s unrealistic for me to feel no frustration about the many life experiences that this virus is stealing from my family. Yet I must also remember how comfortable my life truly is. Although it’s beyond my power to solve my family’s small frustrations, it is completely within my power to help alleviate the much bigger struggles that many in our community face.

Please join me by giving to the Door County Emergency Response Fund (RespondDoorCounty.org). As a partnership between the Door County Community Foundation and United Way, the Emergency Response Fund creates and supports projects such as the Food Pantry Coalition and the Rental Assistance Program (RentReliefDoorCounty.org). As the weather turns cold and jobs dwindle, we will face a very difficult off-season. We can get through it if we support one another as a community.

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

Think About Who’s Asking You to Wear a Mask

Pretend for a moment that the governor did not issue an order requiring everyone in Wisconsin wear a mask. Imagine that you’ve never heard of Dr. Fauci, and the president doesn’t tweet. Consider a world with no talking heads on cable news fostering division to drum up ratings, and no politicians exploiting the pandemic for partisan political purposes.

In this imaginary world, COVID-19 is still here, but the only people you can hear from are the health professionals around you.

In that simpler and quieter existence, how would you respond if your friends at Door County Medical Center told you that wearing a mask will dramatically reduce the spread of the virus in Door County? What would you do if your neighbors at Door County Public Health asked you to wear a mask because it protects vulnerable people around you?

During our evening exercise walk through Sturgeon Bay, my lovely wife and I regularly cross paths with the CEO of our hospital. Every day, we walk by the home of our public-health officer. These aren’t Washington politicians or Madison bureaucrats. They are Door County folks whom we know personally. They and their colleagues are the same people whom my wife and I have been trusting to look after our family’s health for many years.

I suspect that in this imaginary world, the hyperbole and vitriol that have characterized the wearing of masks would quickly come to an end. There would be no politics involved. It would just be our friends and neighbors – who also happen to be our trusted health professionals – telling us that if everyone wears a mask, we will dramatically reduce the spread of the virus and keep our vulnerable friends and neighbors safe.

Still, if only a handful of us wear a mask, nothing will happen. It takes all of us to act if we’re going to accomplish our goal of eradicating this virus. And there’s something beautiful about the symmetry of this truth: The path to protecting the Door County community requires us to come together in a spirit of community and take collective action as a united community.

We human beings are at our very best when we support one another. Working for the Door County Community Foundation, every day I see generous people doing incredible things to improve this community.

The most obvious form of generosity is the money they give to help others. For instance, at the Community Foundation, our Emergency Response Fund has received about $800,000 in contributions that are now being used to provide food, pay rent and help families that are struggling during this global pandemic and the resulting recession. (You can learn more at RespondDoorCounty.org.) But generosity isn’t limited by your ability to write a big check.

We all know about the heroism of emergency responders: the professionals we count on to be on the front line of any crisis. During this crisis, our community has also been blessed with “everyday responders”: ordinary people who have stepped forward to volunteer and help however they can. Everyday responders have been delivering meals, staffing food pantries, taking care of kids, sewing face masks and doing many other selfless things to keep our community strong.

Yet perhaps the simplest form of generosity is ultimately the one that will have the most dramatic effect on our community – but only if we all do it together as a community. It’s the simple act of wearing a mask.

Goodness knows that I don’t know about the legality or constitutionality of the governor’s order requiring all of us to wear a mask. I do suspect that if it’s constitutional for a government to require me to wear pants so that the community is spared from having to look at my private parts, it’s probably also constitutional for the government to require me to wear a mask so that the community is spared from any virus I might spread. But hey, what do I know?

Regardless, wearing a mask isn’t about legality, or constitutionality, or even liberty. Wearing a mask is about community. It’s an act of generosity. Wearing a mask is each of us doing our part to keep our community safe.

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

Lessons for Non-Profits from 50,000 Wills

People’s reluctance to talk openly about their charitable giving has always frustrated me.  Most folks will excitedly share stories about their beautiful new sailboat or the vacation they took to some exotic far away land.  Yet when it comes to the charities we support, we tend to be far more hesitant to share.

I’ve always found this sadly ironic.  We think nothing of exulting the ways we spend money on ourselves, but we consider it unseemly to talk about us at our most noble – when we’re giving away our money to help others.  Our world will be far better off when we talk as publicly about our leadership gift to the United Way as when we tell stories about our vacation exploring the south of France.

Beyond the establishment of societal norms, there is another more modest implication of most people’s unwillingness to talk publicly about their giving.  The field of philanthropy doesn’t have very good data.  That can be problematic because its hard to design a fundraising program if you don’t know a lot about what your donors are doing.  This lack of data is by far most problematic in the realm of estate gifts.

Most of what we know about estate planning comes from self-reported surveys and anecdotal experiences from people who work in planned giving.  Yet an increasing number of people are turning to the internet and online companies to craft a will.  As a result, for the perhaps the first time ever, we can examine trends in more than 50,000 wills created using the online will company FreeWill.

Before we look at the data, let me begin by saying that writing your will online may not be the best idea for you.  Your last will and testament is your final statement to the world and it will only be read when you’re gone.  Hence, you won’t be around to correct any errors or omissions.  Further, complex estates typically involve a trust.  Visiting with an estate planning professional to seek tax and legal guidance customized for your unique situation is a good idea for most folks.  However, regardless of the efficacy of online wills, there is value in reviewing the data.  Here are a few key takeaways from the study.

The average gift to charity through a will created online was $78,630.  That’s amazing especially when you consider that few wealthy families use an online will service.  The company that released the data refers to their clients as “everyday” people.  Yet the average charitable bequest of these average Americans is $78,630.  Because estate gifts typically come from assets, they are far larger than most of us can afford to give during our lifetime.  The lesson for charities is that estate planning efforts should not be limited to our most wealthy friends.  Middle class families can also make a significant contribution through their estate plans.

People without children give nearly twice as much money to charity in their estate plans as compared to parents.  This seems like a pretty obvious statement, but it’s good to have the data to back it up.  If you don’t have any children to include in your will, you have more money available to give to charity.  Interestingly, while parents have less to give, they are slightly more likely than non-parents to give to charity in their will.

Men comprise a minority of people writing online wills, but they bequests they leave to charity are almost 50% higher than those written by women.  The traditional thinking is that when it comes to planned gifts, efforts should focus on women for practical of reasons.  In most married couples, the woman is the younger of the two and they tend to live longer.  Yet this data indicates that the traditional thinking might lead charities to miss opportunities by not focusing enough on men.

People aged 44-64 are the ones most likely to include a gift to charity in their will.  This runs counter to many planned giving programs which tend to focus on retired people age 65 and above.  The data implies that many charities are missing an opportunity to begin an estate planning conversation at a much younger age than typically occurs today.

Of course, the key takeaway for any charity is that if you don’t already have a planned giving program in place you should start one soon.  It takes years for estate planning programs to reap rewards, but the gifts received can be large enough to transform a charity for the better.

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

Community Foundation Awards Sustainability Grant to the Door County Medical Center

The Door County Community Foundation has awarded the Door County Medical Center a Sustainability Grant from the Health and Human Needs Fund. This grant supports The Healing Project.

The Healing Project provides a limited number of no-cost-to-participate integrative health care services to local individuals living with cancer. Services include acupuncture, energy therapy, massage therapy, nutrition counseling, behavioral health counseling and mindfulness.

“This program is important to those that are facing a difficult health challenge in their life,” said Mark Jinkins, Board Member of the Door County Community Foundation. “We are pleased to support a program that will provide therapies at no cost as many are struggling to make ends meet; many lack the strength to work during their cancer journey .”

20191217_100207
Pictured, from left to right are Jennelle Berg, The Healing Project Coordinator, and Mark Jinkins, Board Member of the Door County Community Foundation, Inc.

The Healing Project provides a limited number of no-cost-to-participate integrative health care services to local individuals living with cancer. Services include acupuncture, energy therapy, massage therapy, nutrition counseling, behavioral health counseling and mindfulness. Healing Project participants receive services from DCMC staff at the Sturgeon Bay campus. The program is overseen by Integrative Health Director Dr. Chona Antonio who also provides acupuncture services. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, contact Jennelle Berg The Healing Project Coordinator at 920-746-0726.

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.

###

Women’s Fund Awards Sustainability Grant to the United Way

The Women’s Fund of Door County has awarded the United Way of Door County a Sustainability Grant. This grant supports the Door County Partnership for Children and Families. The Partnership, a program of the United Way, will use this grant for Door County Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library which provides young children in our community with free, high-quality, age-appropriate books each month.

The Door County Partnership for Children and Families, together with their partner organizations, is dedicated to connecting people to resources through a family-centered approach in order to achieve social-emotional well-being and school success.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free books to children from birth until they begin school. Since its inception in 1995, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library has grown to be available in over 1,700 local communities and sends free books to over 1 million children on a monthly basis.

Picture1
Pictured from left to right are Jennifer Moeller, Board Member of the Women’s Fund of Door County and Chad Welch, Family Engagement Leader at Door County Partnership for Children and Youth.

 

The Women’s Fund of Door County builds, enriches, and nurtures the lives of women and girls through collective wisdom and philanthropy. They are a granting organization for women and girls in Door County. The Women’s Fund believes that when we give women the tools they need to succeed, their families and their community will prosper. Investing in women and girls is the smartest choice for funding long-term solutions to issues that concern us all.

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.

###

 

 

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.

###

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.

20191217_100235

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.