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Individual investments, massive impact

By Steve Moore

$10 billion is a lot of money.

According to recent data, that’s enough money to provide for close to 376,000 foster children for a full year.

That amount of money could house more than 285,700 homeless individuals for a year.

We could also provide healthcare for more than 357,000 families for that amount.

Recently, Schwab Charitable announced that it has helped facilitate more than $10 billion in grants through the donor advised funds it manages since it was founded in 1999. Vanguard Charitable was founded in 1997 and has overseen $7.7 billion in grants through its donor advised funds. The National Christian Foundation has also crossed the $10 billion mark since it opened in 1982. Fidelity Charitable has helped individuals give away billions to more than 200,000 organizations since it was founded in 1991. That’s over $30 billion from just four organizations.

Locally, we feel the impact of donor advised funds across every sector of service. There are about 30 community foundations serving the Pacific Northwest that direct millions of dollars in support to a diverse array of nonprofits and community groups through donor advised funds which they manage. For example, the Oregon Community Foundation and the Seattle Foundation, two of the largest community foundations in the country, each oversaw more than $110 million in giving in 2017, a considerable portion of which was through donor advised funds which they help administer. Max Williams, CEO and President of Oregon Community Foundation, recently shared valuable perspective on how their investments in the local region play a critical role in spurring innovation and tangible solutions by being nimble and flexible in ways other funding sources, such as the government, cannot.

When you consider the vast amount of support made available through the countless donor advised funds managed by financial institutions and community foundations around the country, the potential impact of this giving starts to come into sharper focus.

The beautiful thing about philanthropy is that it does not remain stagnant. It morphs and evolves with time to adapt to the needs, practices and culture of our current society. Philanthropy is no longer solely the domain of the cigar-smoking industrialist who loomed large over the dawn of the 20th century. Now, almost anyone can establish a long-term philanthropic strategy to help serve the greater good. Tax reform legislation passed at the end of 2017 shed fresh light on donor advised funds and their potential giving impact. We are excited to see more and more individuals utilize this resource to expand their giving and deepen their support of nonprofits working to serve the common good in our communities.

As 2018 comes to a close, now is the ideal time for those of us in the funding sector, as well as for individual citizens, to take a hard look at how we give back to the communities that help lift us up. Have you considered establishing your own donor advised fund (these can be started with as little as $5,000)? Can you collaborate with friends or professional colleagues to collaborate on a community investment? Do you have ideas as to how your favorite nonprofit or community foundation could maximize their impact?

Taking a thoughtful, strategic and creative approach to giving can be an excellent way to help our communities flourish and thrive through generosity.