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Katelyn Egger | SBJ

A Conversation With ... Winter Kinne

President & CEO, Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc.

Posted online

What is the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ Generosity Collective?
It is a high-impact giving circle. If folks are not familiar with the concept of a giving circle, that’s not something that Community Foundation created. It means that it is several unrelated parties all contributing a little bit to a charitable fund and then collectively giving their money away. Giving circles are a growing trend nationally.

Tell me about some of the stipulations, like the annual investment and how many folks can be a part of it?
We are capping membership at 100 members this first year, and it is a $2,500 membership or donation. As of (Feb. 1), we have roughly 46 [members]. Because it is coming to Community Foundation, it’s a charitable contribution to be part of the Generosity Collective. We are modeling this after a really successful effort born out of our Joplin Regional Community Foundation called the Philanthropic Society. They are about four and a half, five years ahead of us here in Springfield. Similar structure, same membership amount. They also originally had capped it at 100 members; they now have a waiting list.

The idea of giving circles, as you mentioned, is a rising trend. Philanthropy Together is tracking those, and they believe there are about 2,500 giving circles in the U.S., and that growth has really been over the past couple decades. They think it’s going to get to 3,000 by next year. Why is this a popular way to give?
One, I think people are more opinionated about the way that they give or what they want to give to than maybe they were even 15 or 20 years ago. We all have more information at our fingertips than we used to have. With giving circles, you very much have a stake in the group that’s getting your money, so you have a vote; you have a voice. At $2,500, if we were to get 100 members, [that’s] $250,000, I can’t give $250,000 away; I can’t give $25,000 away. But being able to contribute something that I can, and then collectively to be able to give large chunks away, you see a higher impact. For nonprofits, my hope is that it encourages a different kind of giver. Also, larger chunks of money being granted to our nonprofits is a good thing. It’s sometimes just as much work for a $500, $1,000, $2,000 donation as it is for a $20,000, $25,000, $50,000 donation.

In addition to annual funding, I read on the website 10% of funds are going to an endowment to help this support live and grow. How does the fee structure work?
Same admin fee that Community Foundation charges other funds, so it’s 1.15% annually based on an average daily balance of the fund, much like a financial institution would be. That’s our all-inclusive administrative fee to manage both the account that will be giving the money away in 2024 and then also the endowment long term.

You mentioned that the members will have a vote, so they’ll each have one vote to decide within a democratic process of choosing the charities. Do the charities have to apply for funding?
They will. The Generosity Collective Advisory Board has taken the 66 red flags and blue ribbons out of the Community Focus Report and whittled those down to 10 areas of interest. The first thing that will happen after membership closes, at the end of February, the membership will vote on the top four. Then Community Foundation will put out a call for grant applications for nonprofits serving those four particular areas of interest. There will be a grant committee made up of Generosity Collective members that will read those grant applications and those four areas of interest and bring it down to two or three finalists in each particular area. We will ask those nonprofits that are finalists to do some sort of, I’m calling it an iPhone video, smartphone video. The Generosity Collective members will view all those videos and then vote for a finalist in each of the four interest areas. That is the rough plan for year one with hopes and plans to give money away in November 2024.

On the trend of charitable giving, the U.S. had strong years of charitable giving, according to Giving USA, in 2020 and 2021, and then 2022 saw what they’re calling an unprecedented drop in giving, about 10% adjusted for inflation. What are you seeing now, and what’s your sense of why giving dropped?
We don’t have 2023 numbers officially yet. I do think inflation plays a part in that. When life is just more expensive, folks have to cut somewhere. One of the reasons that we also wanted to launch Generosity Collective into the world is for the first time in 2022 we also saw the number of households that were giving decrease, which is kind of a scary thing to think about for our nonprofits. I feel like in 2020 and 2021, the pandemic really showed what nonprofits can do and need to do for a community when those kinds of things happen. You also had the stimulus money flowing into society, and a lot of folks who maybe didn’t need that were able to give that back to nonprofits. But we also know that the data only tells part of the story because when tax law changed several years ago, the standard deduction was doubled. For many households, they may still be giving, but it doesn’t appear on their taxes because there’s no need for them to itemize anymore because the standard deduction went up. Although nonprofits will tell you that they have seen a decrease in giving, it’s really kind of a complicated nonprofit philanthropy giving landscape, but something that Community Foundation is paying a lot of attention to and nationally philanthropy groups are paying a lot of attention to. Here’s hoping Congress, Treasury and IRS are also paying attention.

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