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editorial - The Daily MAIL -- 3/20/01

March 19, 2001

Let Community Foundation handle schools' endowment



The County Commissioners are wise to have second thoughts about a school board proposal to hire a part-time person to manage to the Washington County Educational Foundation. The Community Foundation of Washington County (CF) already has a full-time staff and more than $2 million in assets; why re-invent the wheel and waste cash that should go toward building up an endowment?

Great things were expected in 1996 when the educational foundation was set up. The 11-member board of distinguished citizens and businesspeople was supposed to grow the initial investment of $10,000 into a fund that would supplement the school system's annual operating budget. But for some reason, nothing happened, and the fund has dwindled to $8,200.

Compare that with what's happened in approximately the same time period with the Community Foundation. Launched in November 1997, the agency began with $100,000 in invested assets. By the following year, it had doubled that and awarded $19,000 to 32 county non-profits. It now has an executive director, staff and maintains 35 permanent endowment funds ranging in value from $2,500 to $1.5 million.

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The Community Foundation also received more than $2 million in donations in 2000, including pledges of $100,000 toward Founder's Endowment Fund, which would be used only to pay the foundation's expenses. The foundation also added to its stature in the community this past November, when it honored three long-time community volunteers, giving each $5,000 so that each could allow their favorite charities to set its own CF-managed endowment fund.

So, given that the Community Foundation seems to have mastered the art of collecting donations and done a better-than-average job of marketing and publicity, why would the county want to spend money recreating what they've already got?

Still not convinced? Try a compromise: Donate an amount equal to the education foundation director's proposded nsalary to the Community Foundation and let CF handle matters for a year. The risk is slight and the potential payoff could be substantial.

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