When I started at the Community Foundation 27 years ago, I spent 60% of my time marketing the Foundation to professional advisors – attorneys, accountants, trust officers, and financial advisors. 

The Foundation was only three years old, so no one knew much about what a community foundation was or the fact that there were already 32 community foundations in Pennsylvania and 800 nationwide. 

Many of the advisors thanked me for the introduction to the Community Foundation but made it clear that their professional practice did not include estate planning, and they would probably never be able to refer someone. Even so, over the past 27 years, many of those advisors who thought they would never have a client who would be able to work with the Foundation have since helped their clients establish funds with us.  

I was not raised here, but one of the things I love about Berks County is the philanthropic nature of the community. I have witnessed firsthand people rallying to support a nonprofit organization that was struggling financially or a family or individual in need of help. The people I see helping are not high wealth individuals. They are regular folks who want to make people’s lives easier. You don’t see that in every community. 

What I have found even more special is the inconspicuous nature of giving in this community. We established the Franklin Society over 15 years ago, – a legacy society to recognize those who have considered the Community Foundation in their estate plan. When we work with individuals on setting up a testamentary fund (one that will be funded upon their passing), we always ask if they would like to join the Franklin Society.  

Since the Community Foundation was founded 30 years ago, 55 funds have been established as an estate bequest. We have worked with 90 other individuals who have named the Foundation in their estate plans. 

Of those donors, we still only have twenty members of the Franklin Society. Berks Countians don’t give for recognition; they give to make sure something happens to benefit their community.  

Even through economic downturns like 2008, the community did not stop giving. Those that could give gave more because they knew others were struggling.  

It is that kind of philanthropic spirit that makes Berks County a special place. 

Have you ever considered giving to Berks County Community Foundation? If you have thought about giving to the Community Foundation, you may not even know where to begin. With nearly 400 funds managed by the Community Foundation, there are many options for you to decide how to give. We can help guide you in determining how and where to make an impact.   

Maybe you think that giving to the Community Foundation is only for donors with deep pockets who can establish a fund. Perhaps you don’t know anyone else who has ever given to the Community Foundation. What you might not know is that many people – from Berks County to international donors – have decided to donate to Berks County Community Foundation over our 30-year history, from just a few dollars to multimillion-dollar gifts.  

Many of our donors contribute to funds created by others in the community to support nonprofit organizations or fields of interest. Others contribute to funds established in honor or memory of someone important to them. Donations are also made to support crises or other pressing needs in the community.  Even the smallest donation can spark change for a cause that can create a lasting impact in the community. In 2023, over 1,400 people gave charitable gifts to 120 funds. 

If you aren’t sure where to begin, our Fund Directory is a great place to start. You can search through the alphabetical list of funds that donors have established, or you can enter a word or two in the search box to help narrow down your options. You can also narrow down the list by searching by region, field of interest, or type of fund.   

If you are interested in setting up your own fund to support an organization or area of interest that means a lot to you, try our Create Your Own Fund Quiz. This is a short questionnaire to help determine the best method of giving for you.  

Whether you want to donate to an existing fund to support a cause you care about or start a fund of your own, we’re here to help turn your spark of generosity into action.  Please email mollyr@bccf.org or call 610-685-2223 to start the conversation.  We are here to help. 

On February 28th, Berks County Community Foundation held a Winter Get Together. Over 30 professional advisors attended the event, which included a roll-out of our updated Giving Guide.  

The Giving Guide is a comprehensive resource designed to explain what a community foundation is and the advantages of using Berks County Community Foundation. The guide includes explanations on the various types of funds one can establish, how to create a charitable fund, and more.   

Introductions to the program officers and their areas of focus were part of the evening’s festivities, in addition to introducing a new face, Molly McCullough Robbins.  

Robbins comes to the foundation as the Vice President for Philanthropic Services handling resource development and promotional efforts of the foundation. Robbins will work with the program officers to identify individuals in the community who may be interested in supporting the foundation’s work.  

The event was also a chance for us to thank the professional advisors who, by introducing the Community Foundation to their clients, allowed us to carry on our mission of promoting philanthropy and improving the quality of life for Berks County residents.    

Since the Community Foundation was founded 30 years ago this year, 50% of the charitable funds we manage have been the direct result of a referral by a professional advisor. If we look at the dollar amount of those funds referred to by a professional advisor, it is 76% of our current investment pool. 

Details on how you can be a referral and spark change are available in the Community Foundation’s Giving Guide.  

If you have questions, please email give@bccf.org.

For nearly 30 years, Berks County Community Foundation has helped individuals, families, organizations, and businesses achieve their charitable objectives. We know that change radiates outward, and we help people create a brighter future and a legacy of real transformation for all of us. This often includes creating a fund to honor the memory of a loved one or support a cause about which the individual or family cares deeply. In either case, a member of our staff works with the people involved to determine the best way to meet their charitable objectives.

How does it work?  First, think about what you are passionate about supporting.  We can help you achieve your charitable goals, no matter the cause or motivation. Let us help you discover the type of charitable fund that best matches your goals.

Different funds fulfill different dreams.

Which of these types of funds works best for your dream? 

Ready to put your charitable vision into action?  We are here to help. Click here to use our short questionnaire to set your journey of generosity in motion. Questions? Email give@bccf.org. We look forward to helping you fulfill your charitable goals.

Every year, Rutter’s organizes a Secret Santa event where they select 100 employees throughout the company to decide where to donate $1,000. This holiday season, Matthew Commons was one of the lucky individuals to donate to a charity of his choice. 

Matthew decided the donation should go to a fund at Berks County Community Foundation. “What better way to give back to my community than choosing the foundation that goes above and beyond to support every aspect of the place I grew up in?” 

The impact of Matthew’s choice reaches far beyond the monetary value of the donation. 

Matthew decided the donation should go to a charitable fund that supports local businesses. The donation will be put into the Business Jump Start Incubator Fund. This fund supports startup businesses. Startup businesses pay a reduced rent and in return get a fully furnished office, Wi-Fi, and use of the conference facilities. By supporting local businesses, Matt is contributing to the economic impact of the community.  

Matt’s story serves as an inspiration for us all. It reminds us that change starts with a spark. Your spark. And every act of generosity, when directed with purpose, can have a profound impact on the lives of those around us. 

Want to make a positive difference in Berks County? We’re happy to answer your questions, discuss charitable options with you, and do everything we can to ensure your charitable objectives are fulfilled. We’d love to chat. Contact us today. 

Matthew Commons delivers a surprise donation to help support local businesses in the community.

Matthew Commons delivers a surprise donation to help support local businesses in the community.

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.