One of the important differences between a commercial charitable fund and a fund at the Community Foundation of Western Nevada is the stewardship services a fundholder receives. We are serious about your grants making a difference, whether the grant is for $100 or $100,000. Not all donor advised funds are alike. Donors rely on our professional staff to check out charity recipients, share information about what they find, and learn about opportunities to make a difference.
Commercial donor-advised funds operators and the Community Foundation both verify that the donor-recommended charity is indeed a legal charity, but that is where the similarity ends. Our staff also checks out the organizations’ website to check out their programs and level of transparency of their financial documents, their board members, and policies. The Community Foundation Stewardship staff reviews the organizations’ tax returns to understand their mission statement and their revenue versus expenses ratio. They take a look at the organizations’ expenditures to see how much they spend on administration and fundraising and note the Executive Director salary. If needed, staff will contact the organization directly and may review their leadership, current budget, and other materials.
This may seem like a lot of work for a $100 grant, but through this research Program Officers, Lauren Renda and Lyndsey Crossley really get to know which organizations are effective, and which need improvement. In our 21 year history, CFWN has distributed $120m in grants to hundreds of organizations – – more than 9,000 grants in total!
The Community Foundation staff have learned that the best-run charities follow certain best governance and administrative practices, including having D & O Insurance, a well-defined mission, a board of at least eight members (who aren’t all family members and friends), and a board meeting at least quarterly. We look to see if the organization conducts an annual financial review or audit, and we look at board member turnover. We check to see whether the board approves the organization’s budget and whether they maintain an operating reserve equal to at least 25% of their annual budget. We also like to see that the Board Treasurer has access to all organizational accounts, statements, and financials.
Community Foundation Fundholders are assigned a Program Officer who works as a philanthropic advisor, not just on the due diligence process described above, but also on crafting and structuring giving and granting plans to achieve the donor’s personal philanthropic objectives. Expert staff help guide current and estate giving plans that strategically time and target donor’s assets to achieve the best financial results for a donor and their estate.
You have choices about where to put your donor advised fund. I ask you to consider the local expertise and services donors receive at the Community Foundation of Western Nevada. Please give us a call at 775-333-5499 to discuss your charitable plans.
Chris Askin, President, and CEO
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