Local | Philanthropy & Family Finance

Community foundations turn 100

Tracy Salkowitz
Tracy Salkowitz

Community foundations are the cool­est thing ever … well, you would think so, too, if you had the greatest job in the world.

The first community foundation was created in Cleveland in 1914 by Frederick Goff, a local banker, who understood the need for a centralized philanthropic vehicle to support community needs. Since then, hundreds of community foundations have opened across the country.

Community foundations are the only entities that provide flexibility in philanthropy. What the heck does that mean? It means that if you go to the Red Cross to check out how to leave money in your will to support emergency relief, they will be delighted to tell you how to leave funds to the Red Cross. If you go to the University of Arizona to find out how to support educational scholarships, they are happy to help you set up a scholarship fund benefiting UA students.

Let’s say, however, you want to leave a little to each organization or maybe to an area of interest, such as services for youth or seniors. At a community foundation we can help you create what we call a “legacy plan,” which enables you to do just that.

Community foundations aren’t about raising funds for an individual organization. We are about securing a strong investment in the future of our community through direct support of agencies, federations or synagogues, or even program areas where you’d like to support the best program at the time. If, for example, a donor cares about senior services, the foundation’s grants committee will determine the most qualified program. We have donors who have set up funds to support no-kill animal shelters, and another who has provided funds for non-profit community leadership development and training programs. Whatever you dream, we can make happen. You can support the causes you care about, allowing your name to live on forever as a generous donor. And if you change your mind during your lifetime and want to change your beneficiaries, there is no charge!

Community foundations also provide tax advantages for donors, enabling more funds to go to the community and less to Uncle Sam. Donor advised funds enable donors to contribute to their funds when it is most convenient for them and then make distributions when they are moved to do so, not when scrambling at the end of the year to get the donations made prior to Dec. 31. When donors let us know where they’d like the distributions to be made, a letter goes out identifying the donor, but the check is a Jewish Community Foundation check. The community relations impact of this is tremendous. For example, last year, the UA received over $300,000 through JCF donors, from the Jewish community. This underscores our commitment to the whole community and what integral partners we are in the health of Southern Arizona.

Last year over $4.5 million flowed through our doors to local, national and overseas nonprofits. These funds have supported incredible programs ranging from transportation of seniors to local synagogues, to providing tutoring to Ethiopian youth in Israel. JCF is the great equalizer. You don’t have to be rich and you don’t have to be Jewish. You just have to care about our community and its future. And meeting with people with such generous and compassionate hearts is why I love my job.

Tracy Salkowitz is CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. She blogs at www.tracystreks.com. More JCF information: www.jcftucson.org, Facebook, Twitter and 577-0388.