Foundation tools – Focus on donors

By Todd Cohen

A one-stop Web site designed to help community foundations serve donors, donor-advisers, nonprofits and the public will be the main product offered by a new membership group created by some of the largest U.S. community foundations.

Members of Community Foundations of America, based in Louisville, Ky., will be able to customize the site by adding their own features.

Standard features to be included initially will be designed to help individuals and organizations learn how to get involved as donors; create charitable funds; and find out about currently funded nonprofits.

The initial site, which CEO Carla Dearing says will be available in the second quarter, also will provide resources for donor advisers such as lawyers, accountants and financial consultants; offer tax-saving tips; and deliver news and information.

Future features will let donors track investment performance and grant activity of their funds, and will help nonprofits apply for grants and review other grants.

The Web site will have access to resources collected by CFA, including a tool to help community foundations handle gifts of securities from donors who may be restricted in their sale of those securities; national research that community foundations may want to share with donors; and shared technology such as Webcasts examining issues involving planned giving and taxes.

CFA, which was formed last year to develop and offer products and services to the roughly 600 community foundations in the U.S., also offers or is developing several other products, including a Web-based system to help community foundations administer donor and endowment assets; a Web-based tool to survey donors; and a governance seminar co-hosted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy in Boston.

The donor-administration system will include a feature designed to defray record-keeping costs – ranging from $9,600 to $120,000, depending on total assets – through the use of certain mutual funds that agree to offset some of those costs.

That feature, akin to incentives widely offered by mutual funds to third-party administrators of 401(k) plans, is designed to help community foundations better integrate the cost of administering assets with the way those assets are invested, says Dearing, who worked in the financial services industry before joining CFA.

The first two foundations to sign up for the donor-administration system are the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and the Luzerne Foundation in Pennsylvania.

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