Gundlach’s huge gift to the Elkhart Community back in the national spotlight


ELKHART — After Guy David Gundlach died unexpectedly in 2011, he left close to $150 million to the Elkhart County Community Foundation. While his donation has helped various not-for-profits around the area, the county has yet to fully benefit from his gift.

The foundation has $240 million on its books, which includes $165 million set aside for discretionary grant-making, foundation President Pete McCown said. Of that, $145 million comes from Gundlach’s donation.

The foundation will get an additional $7 million once Gundlach’s estate is settled, which includes the sale of his house on Greenleaf Boulevard.

About $7 million of the donation has been spent since the foundation received the donation in 2012, and that’s only using returns earned from investing its funds, McCown said.

Gundlach founded the insurance company Hastings Direct in Hastings, England, according to previous reporting by The Elkhart Truth. He was also a co-producer on the 2009 film “Get Low,” starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray.

He died of a heart attack at age 56 in 2011 and left nearly everything he had — which added up to roughly $152 million — to the foundation. Gundlach had no spouse or heirs.

“The first year that Guy David Gundlach’s gift took effect was in 2013 ... so we really have only been giving his gift by 2½ years,” McCown said. “And the reason for that is when anyone gives us a gift, our core purpose is to maintain the endowment.”

The foundation averages its balance over the last four years and allocates 5 percent of that value for spending the next year.

The impact of Gundlach’s donation can only truly be felt after the foundation has held onto it for four years.

The foundation announces who it will donate money to four times every year. Not-for-profit organizations apply for grants through the foundation, and the applications are categorized based on whether it addresses youth development, a vibrant community or quality of life.

Some of the smaller-value grants are announced in April and October. Grants that are larger than a $250,000 are announced in June and December.

“We don’t start spending money until we have a year for it to produce fruit,” he said. “Essentially, in general terms, we spend the interest off anyone’s gift.”

The foundation invests the money in the stock market, which saw a 14.9 percent return on investment in 2014. By investing Gundlach’s monetary donation, McCown estimates that the foundation has earned $30 million the last three years.

“One of our not-for-profit leaders commented a few months ago that what David’s gift does for the community is that it has caused everyone to be more optimistically visionary about their own organization and the future of the community,” McCown said. 


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