Donor choice, part 4 – Service fuels philanthropy

[Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories looking at choices facing donors.]

By Todd Cohen

Community foundations, initially created by banks nearly a century ago to pool and service charitable trusts, have evolved rapidly and independently of one another.

“There’s so much morphing in the community foundation world, they don’t look like one another,” says Eileen Heisman, president of the National Philanthropic Trust in Jenkintown, Pa.

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, for example, has moved over the past 10 years to offer donors the kind of  “transactional effectiveness” pioneered by financial-services firms, says Janice C. Kreamer, foundation president.

Services offered by those firms include letting donors check fund balances every day or pay out grants quickly, she says.

“The competition forced us to say, ‘If this is what today’s donor is wanting, we need to be able to offer it’”, she says.

As part of its effort to combine speedy service with local know-how, the foundation recently launched DonorEdge, a web-based database designed to connect donors with causes they care about.

Competition also is driving the community foundation tech syndicate, which is developing its first project, an effort to electronically connect accounting systems at individual foundations to their investment managers or custodians.

That effort aims to meet donor demand for daily valuation of their funds and online access to check the balances of their funds, say Suzanne Feurt, managing director of community foundation services for the Council on Foundations in Washington, D.C.

“As the big financial institutions evolve and adapt to the changing marketplace,” she says, “the community foundations need to do that, too.”

Next: Financial firms target donors.

Other stories in the series:

Part 1 – Philanthropy market diversifies [10/6/03]

Part 2 – Need spurs philanthropy market [10/8/03]

Part 3 – Donors shop to meet needs [10/13/03]

Part 5 – Financial firms target donors [10/27/03]

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