ELKHART — While the unprecedented generosity of Guy David Gundlach has been the biggest story at the Elkhart County Community Foundation for more than a year, it’s definitely not the only story.
Gundlach’s gift of $150 million is the biggest in the foundation’s history, though the last fiscal year would’ve been record-breaking even without it.
“We actually had $7 million of other gifts that year which would’ve been still the No. 1 year,” said Brian Smith, foundation chairman, at the foundation’s annual meeting Wednesday, Oct. 10.
Since the first part of Gundlach’s gift went to the community foundation 14 months ago, “There’s been another $10 million in giving,” said Pete McCown, president of the foundation. “This would’ve been the best year in the history of the community foundation. That’s gone unnoticed,” he said.
The pace continues, with the foundation’s current fiscal year (July 1 - June 30) looking like it will be even better, he said.
“There were a number of gifts that were underway,” McCown said, but after Gundlach’s gift, various people decided to join with the foundation and have the foundation administer their assets.
The Max and Mary Elizabeth Walker estate’s gift is one of the three biggest in the foundation’s history. The foundation also received the Elisabeth DeFries estate endowment for the calendar gardens. Each of those was more than $1 million.
“There were a number of other less-than-million-dollar estate gifts we received,” McCown said.
“In addition to that we had two couples who chose to discontinue the existence of their private family foundation and move their private-foundation assets under the community foundation umbrella and create donor-advised funds,” he said. Each was about $1 million, McCown said.
They also had a couple sell a company and create a significant trust, to the tune of $3 million or $4 million, McCown said.
One of the reasons for that is practical. Before Gundlach’s gift, the foundation had a 1 percent fee for managing gifts, money used to pay staff, pay bills and file tax forms.
Now that the foundation has grown from a $45 million foundation to more than $200 million, it cut fees drastically.
“Dave’s gift has allowed us to reduce our fee structure,” McCown said, and it’s also opened up better investment options for the foundation. They open those investment opportunities to other nonprofit charities, and many have taken advantage of that, McCown said.
The foundation now charges half a percent to administer unrestricted funds like Gundlach’s, and a quarter of a percent for other funds like scholarships or endowments to churches, libraries or various causes.
The foundation also matches scholarships set up through it, McCown said, so it will match a quarter of any scholarship fund. “Our mission is to inspire generosity, to help you with this,” he said.
As a result of the Gundlach gift, “I think there’s a greater awareness of the foundation in the community, there are economies of scale that we’ve been able to realize as well that have made us the right strategy for someone trying to accomplish a particular charitable purpose,” McCown said.
“I don’t know what the future will hold, but I think it’s entirely possible that this historic moment becomes a kind of catalytic event that accelerates the growth and development of the community foundation,” he said.
“I think there’s some enthusiasm, some momentum around it. I also know that we’re coming into this era, we’re in our 24th year, and the good and thoughtful work that was done in the first decade” is starting to bear fruit, McCown said. “We are realizing the good work of the founding board in encouraging their friends and colleagues to become benefactors of this community at the end of their lifetime.
“I would not be surprised one bit if we grow from $200 to $400 million in the next 10 years just because of all those dynamics and factors.
“That is not the single most important measure of a community foundation, is the assets under management. We have to actually do good and be invested in the community to make that important at all. But it is one measure of the community’s confidence in the progress of the foundation,” McCown said.
Not only did more people give and more charities join in the foundation’s funds, “This was a good year to be invested in the market, too. We have $11.25 million in investment returns,” McCown said. That means that during the last fiscal year, “we added $20-plus million in addition to the receipt of the lion’s share of (Gundlach’s) estate. It’s been a remarkable year,” McCown said.
The growth in their investments has continued, with the foundation up another $10 million for the first quarter of this fiscal year, putting the foundation at $202 million at the end of September.
To deal with the explosive growth, the foundation detailed changes this week that put more restrictions on its board but also involves more members of the community in making decisions about how the money is used across the county.
“We’re going to build four or five new committees” with more and more representatives of the various communities around Elkhart County, McCown said. “We’re going to have an opportunity for a greater number of people to be closely connected and own a portion of the work of the community foundation.”
As that happens, more and more people will become aware of the foundation and what it does, and that could lead to more organic growth for the foundation, McCown said. “It’ll be fascinating to see where this all goes.”
LEARN MORE IN PERSON
While the Elkhart County Community Foundation outlined its plans to handle growth from $45 million to $200+ million at an invitation-only event Wednesday, Oct. 10, it also has two events planned for the community in general.
The first is Nov. 5 at the Matterhorn Conference Center in Elkhart from 4 to 5 p.m.
The second is Nov. 12 at Rieth Recital Hall on the Goshen College campus in Goshen from 7 to 8 p.m.
The foundation asks that people RSVP on its site, elkhartccf.org, or call the foundation at 574-295-8761, or stop in at 101 S. Main St., Elkhart.