The Alaska Community Foundation: developing permanent assets and growing philanthropy.

Author:Evans-Dinneen, Laurie

On the threshold of its 20th anniversary of giving in 2015, The Alaska Community Foundation (ACF) has plenty to celebrate. As the central organization for donor advised funds, affiliate funds, nonprofit organizational funds, and field of interest funds, it represents the best of Alaska's shared value of giving back to its communities, changing lives for the better.

Growing its corpus to $62 million, ACF has 297 different funds and grants close to $6 million annually to communities across Alaska through its many affiliates, partners, and donor funds. Gifts of kindness come to ACF in many forms--donations, bequests, property, life insurance, closely held stock, and other assets. When the money is pooled into invested funds, that money grows and becomes the nuggets of various funds that then provide grants based on specific charitable interests.

As a funding agency itself, ACF'S purpose is, "to connect people who care with causes that matter by encouraging and nurturing philanthropy." Established in 1995, it was intended to assist individuals and organizations in creating charitable funds. "Rather than setting up a private foundation," states Candace Winkler, president and CEO, "individual donors can set up a family fund through ACF reducing the burden of infrastructure, legalities, and other complexities. There is also a better tax benefit to the donor because the IRS enables the donors to deduct up to 50 percent of annual adjusted gross income for gifts to a donor advised fund at a community foundation versus only 30 percent for gifts given to a private foundation."

Many Alaskans are familiar with the Rasmuson Foundation, which is a private family foundation that has grown to nearly half a billion dollars. However, many other long-time pioneering Alaska families have all taken advantage of the secure services of ACF to develop their family legacies through donor advised funds, including the Hickel, Norton-Cruz, Kaplan-Sather, and Eliason families. Many of these funds are endowed, which allows for continuing in perpetuity because the grants given will never dip into the principal.


"Private foundations are obligated to give a minimum of 5 percent in charitable grants," Winkler explains. "Under ACF, the family funds are not obligated to give at all in any given year if they choose instead to grow the assets. In normal years, these funds will give away 4 to 5 percent in grants." To ensure checks and balances, the ACF Board is responsible for setting the spending amounts to keep the fund endowed forever.

Susan Foley, attorney and partner at Foley & Foley, PC, has been on the ACF board of directors for eight years and served as chair in 2011 and 2012. At work, she counsels clients who want to leave a legacy. "I help them determine and attain their philanthropic and estate planning goals," Foley says. Therefore, with the ACF board, she takes her role very seriously because she understands the donor's view. "Endowments challenge us to balance Alaska's future needs with a desire to work toward a better present. Donors to an endowment are, literally, 'paying it forward.' An endowment is intended to be a source of continuing income...

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