On November 8, Berks County Community Foundation held its Annual Meeting at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Reading. More than 100 civic leaders attended the event, which included brief presentations by the Community Foundation’s program officers and an overview of the year by Kevin K. Murphy, foundation president.
“This year marked the culmination of our plan to increase our impact in Berks County by expanding the number of program officers working on specific causes,” Murphy said. “Our annual event gave us the opportunity to introduce these new faces to the community.”
The program officers oversee distributions from more than 346 charitable funds that were created by Berks County residents to support causes in the community that were important to them. In fiscal year 2023, those grants and scholarships totaled more than $6.2 million. That brings the total amount of grants and scholarships distributed since the Community Foundation’s founding in 1994 to over $101 million.
In addition to Murphy, who provided a recap of the West Reading Disaster Relief Fund, attendees heard from:
Vice President for Programs and Initiatives Monica Reyes about an effort underway with the Berks County Medical Society to share the results of a study about public health released by the Berks County Commissioners this year;
Health and Human Services Program Officer Cindy Milian about the work she oversees to support animal welfare and to assist families who have children with special needs;
Environment and Energy Program Officer Emily Smedley about grants that are increasing energy efficiency for local organizations and grants that are improving soil health by monitoring the flight patterns of birds of prey;
Lifelong Learning Program Officer Kim Sheffer about teacher mini-grants, which support innovative classroom projects across Berks County.
Details about each of these initiatives are available in the Community Foundation’s 2023 Annual Report.
In addition to learning about the work the Community Foundation is undertaking, attendees were invited to pick up a brush and add their touch to a Berks County mural, and to listen to a trio of local student musicians.
If you’d like to join the Community Foundation at future annual meetings, please send your name and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the invitation list. If you’d like to learn more about the Community Foundation, including how to start a charitable fund of your own, visit www.bccf.org.
For nearly three decades, I’ve had the joy of meeting with individuals and families as they write their wills – usually with the help of their lawyer – and listening to them describe the people who are or have been important to them in life. Of course their parents, siblings, or children are often mentioned, sometimes a beloved teacher or coach.
Taking the time to create a will can feel daunting, but one way to make the task more interesting is to consider whether – and how – you’d like to give back to your community after you’re gone. That’s where we come in. Berks County Community Foundation offers a unique and powerful way for individuals to make a lasting impact in their community by creating a charitable fund through their will.
Creating a fund through a will is an easy and meaningful way for you to support causes and organizations that align with your values and passions. This can be done by including a provision in the will that directs a specific asset or portion of the estate to the Community Foundation, which will be used to establish a named fund in your memory or in honor of a loved one.
The process of creating a fund through a will is relatively simple. You can work with your attorney to include language in your will that directs assets to the Community Foundation. You can also consult with our staff to determine the most appropriate type of fund for your charitable interests and goals. Once the will is executed, we’ll work with your executor or personal representative to establish the fund according to the instructions provided in the will.
The benefits of creating a fund through a will at the Community Foundation are numerous. Not only does it provide a way for you to make a lasting impact in your community, but it also offers a range of giving options, such as unrestricted funds, field of interest funds, and designated funds. This allows you to support a specific cause or organization, or to give the Community Foundation the flexibility to respond to the changing needs of the community over time.
In addition to the charitable benefits, creating a fund through a will also provides a number of personal benefits. It can help to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, and it can provide a way for you to leave a lasting legacy in memory of a loved one. It can also be a way for you to make a difference in the lives of others, even after you are gone.
Overall, creating a fund through a will at the Community Foundation is a powerful way to make a lasting impact in your community. It’s easy to set up and provides a range of giving options, allowing you to support the causes and organizations that are important to you while also leaving a lasting legacy.
Berks County Community Foundation is committed to responsible stewardship of the charitable assets entrusted to us by our donors. One of the ways we do this is through our 4.5 percent spending policy for endowed funds.
Endowed funds are a type of charitable fund that are established with a minimum donation of $50,000. The principal of the fund is invested, with a portion of the investment earnings distributed each year to support charitable causes and organizations in accordance with the fund agreement. The spending policy for an endowed fund is the percentage of the fund’s average value over a rolling three-year period that is distributed for charitable purposes each year.
We have adopted a spending policy of 4.5 percent for endowed funds. This means that, on average, 4.5 percent of the value of an endowed fund is distributed each year for charitable purposes. This spending policy is a balance between preserving the purchasing power of the fund over time and providing a steady stream of support for charitable causes and organizations.
The spending policy is reviewed regularly by our board of directors, and any adjustments to the spending policy are made with the goal of balancing the long-term preservation of the fund’s principal with the need to provide support for charitable causes and organizations.
One of the benefits of this policy is that it allows people to know that when they establish an endowed fund with us, their donations will continue to support the causes and organizations they care about for generations to come.
In addition, this policy also allows the fund to grow over time and allows more money to be distributed over time, meaning more impact can be made in the community over time.
Overall, our 4.5 percent spending policy for endowed funds is an important part of our commitment to responsible stewardship of charitable assets. It’s designed to balance the long-term preservation of the fund’s principal with the need to provide support for charitable causes and organizations, and to ensure that our donors’ gifts continue to make an impact for generations to come.
Berks County Community Foundation is committed to maximizing the long-term growth of our endowed funds in order to support charitable causes and organizations in the community. To achieve this goal, we’ve developed an investment philosophy that emphasizes diversification, long-term growth, and low costs.
Our investment philosophy is based on the belief that diversification is key to achieving long-term growth and managing risk. We invest in a mix of stocks, bonds, and real assets, such as real estate and natural resources, to spread risk and capture growth opportunities across different asset classes.
We also believe in a long-term investment approach. We understand that investments can be volatile in the short-term, but over the long-term, the stock market has historically provided strong returns. Therefore, our investment strategy is designed to capture these long-term returns and provide a steady stream of support for charitable causes and organizations.
In addition, we are committed to keeping costs low. We understand that high costs can eat into returns over time, and we strive to minimize expenses to maximize returns for our donors and the causes they support.
To help us achieve our investment goals, we use Fund Evaluation Group (FEG) as our investment consultant. FEG is an independent investment consulting firm that provides investment advice, research, and due diligence services to a wide range of nonprofit organizations and foundations.
FEG helps us to monitor and evaluate the performance of our investments, and they provide us with regular reports and recommendations to ensure that our portfolio is aligned with our investment philosophy and objectives. They also assist us with researching and selecting new investments, as well as monitoring and assessing the performance of our current investments.
Our investment philosophy is based on the belief that diversification, long-term growth, and low costs are key to maximizing the stability of our endowed funds in order to support charitable causes and organizations in the community. By using Fund Evaluation Group as our investment consultant, we can achieve our investment objectives and ensure that our donors’ gifts continue to make a positive impact for generations to come.
Today – March 7, 2023 – marks one year since Berks County Community Foundation created the Fund for Ednannia at the request of the City University of New York Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. As Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine enters a second year, the importance of this charitable fund only grows.
Since last March, the Fund for Ednannia has provided an opportunity for more than 60 individuals and charitable foundations to make a direct impact on communities affected by the war. Every dollar donated is distributed to Ukrainian community foundations in towns and cities across that country, providing much-needed relief to those impacted by the war.
Thanks to their generosity, our fund has sent nearly $200,000 to Ednannia, which is the Ukrainian network of community foundations. Click here to read a full report about the grants that Ednannia has distributed thanks in part to this support.
In addition to creating and managing the Fund for Ednannia, we’ve provided leadership support, too. Last summer, I traveled to Poland to meet with Ukrainian community foundations to discuss plans for rebuilding and recovery. And last month, our foundation was among the first endorsers of a global Philanthropy Statement of Solidarity and Support to the People of Ukraine that expresses our combined commitment to stand with the Ukrainian people and civil society.
Our collective efforts to support Ednannia exemplify the power of community philanthropy. By bringing together donors, foundations, and civil society, it is possible to provide meaningful assistance to those in need, regardless of their location or the scale of the crisis. Thank you to all who have given and all who continue to give. Click here to support the Fund for Ednannia.
Kevin K. Murphy
Berks County Community Foundation
Photo description from Ednannia: Community Foundation of Berezan has become a focal point for all communities surrounding Berezan that were affected by the warfare (Baryshivska territorial community and others). Community Foundation organized a humanitarian hub on the base of its office. The situation was especially drastic with baby food – as the warfare was very close there were no deliveries, so the Community Foundation appealed to other Community Foundations and CSOs with the plea to send whatever is possible to be able to feed the kids in these communities.
As the season of giving approaches, people often open their hearts and their wallets for good causes. In some cases, donations to those causes may be deducted from your taxes, but not always. If you’re hoping to support a cause and take advantage of a tax deduction, be sure to check with your accountant or attorney before you write that check or click “give.”
“There are many caring things that people do that are not considered charitable in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service,” said Frances A. Aitken, CPA, chief operating officer at Berks County Community Foundation. “That doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t give, but it’s good to be aware of the types of donations that do not qualify for a deduction.”
In general, donations to the following types of organizations qualify for the charitable tax deduction:
In general, donations to the following types of causes DO NOT qualify for a tax deduction:
This list is not exhaustive, and regulations change often, so be sure to seek the advice of a qualified financial professional if you are unsure if your donation is tax-deductible. “At the Community Foundation, we manage funds created by local people to provide grants for causes they care about,” Aitken said. “We’re governed by IRS rules too, so we always check the charitable status of an organization before we issue a grant. If you’re interested in the charitable deduction and you aren’t sure if the organization you’re giving to is charitable, call your accountant.”
To make a tax-deductible gift to a charitable fund managed by the Community Foundation, visit www.bccf.org and click “Give Now.” With more than 370 charitable funds under management, you’re sure to find one that provides grants or scholarships for a cause you care about. To learn more about creating a charitable fund of your own, call the Community Foundation at 610-685.2223.