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Banking on KC – Debbie Wilkerson

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC, I'm your host Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us. With us on this episode is Debbie Wilkerson, the president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. Welcome, Debbie.

Debbie Wilkerson:

Hi Kelly. Great to be here.

Kelly Scanlon:

Eager to hear about all the good work you're doing there at the foundation. So tell us about that.

Debbie Wilkerson:

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation is about a 40-year-old organization here in Kansas City. And our goal, our purpose is to create a platform for donors to help them give to the causes they care about in ways that are effective for them.

Kelly Scanlon:

And what are some of the ways they do that? I mean, you hear about donor-advised funds. I know that's one way that you set yourself apart from some of the other foundations, charitable foundations that exist. So talk with us about the way you carry that work out. Let's start with what is a donor-advised fund?

Debbie Wilkerson:

Oh, that's a great question. And that is when I talk about this platform of different tools we provide donors, that is one of the most popular tools that donors use these days. And we were actually one of the first community foundations in the country to begin providing these services to donors through donor-advised fund. So we've got a longstanding reputation in this field and it's just an amazingly flexible tool for donors. The main idea behind a donor-advised fund is donors at any level of giving, big donors, small donors, any donors in between. You don't have to go set up your own private foundation to be a planner, a donor that's thinking about the future of your giving. You can do that through a donor-advised fund.

Debbie Wilkerson:

So it's a very simple tool. We set up an account and whenever your financial situation is such or whenever your tax situation is such that you might need a deduction, you can set aside dollars when it makes sense for you, take that charitable tax deduction in the year that it makes sense for you, and then give those dollars out slowly over time. And the best part about this and the part that makes most sense for donors is what you have given into the fund but not yet granted out of the fund, you can invest and it grows tax-free.

Kelly Scanlon:

So the year that I put the money in, even though it made be dispersed over several years, the year that I put it in, that's when I get the tax benefit for it.

Debbie Wilkerson:

Precisely

Kelly Scanlon:

So how do I go about, walk me through the process? I have a tax situation, or I just feel like I want to give, but I don't have anything set up. And I don't want to keep track of a lot of different charitable organizations that I'm giving to just directly, so I come to you. Walk me through the process.

Debbie Wilkerson:

It's a very simple two-page form. So you can either work with your advisor and they can help you through this. Or we can do this directly with you on the investment side. It's very, very simple. It's a two-page document. We can do it in a day. Then all you have do after that is decide what's in your portfolio. And you can look at all sorts of different things. We have people that put stock in. There's an added benefit when you pick an appreciated asset like stock because you not only get a charitable deduction for the full value of that stock, but you avoid the capital gains on the sale of that. So we have lots of different ways that people can pick assets that really make sense for them financially to start their charitable giving adventures through a donor-advised fund.

Kelly Scanlon:

I assume too, that although they've started this account, that they have the latitude to decide which organizations they can donate to.

Debbie Wilkerson:

Yes, you are exactly right. So these funds, this [inaudible 00:03:45] your own personal savings for charity. So think about it like that, where you would put money aside, but then when the causes you care about or the organizations you support, when it's time for you to give to them, it's a simple click and grant. See, we take all the administrative records keeping, tracking off your plate. It's in the fund. We've got really great resources to allow you to look at that online, a portal that makes it very simple for you to go back and say, hey, have I given to this organization this past year, or even looking at a long-term strategy for your giving and the amounts you give in certain sectors or certain causes, it's all right there to your fingertips.

Kelly Scanlon:

Are there any minimums required in order to start up one of these funds?

Debbie Wilkerson:

And that's the beauty of a donor-advised fund. They can be as small as you want. We have a very modest minimum administrative fee, but it's very modest. And so we encourage donors at any level of giving. Say, for example, if you might want to set aside $10,000 in this year you can do that in a donor-advised fund, you would never start a private foundation at that dollar amount because it might cost you more than that to set it up. But a donor-advised fund is a perfect vehicle for that.

Kelly Scanlon:

In order to get the tax deduction, they have to be IRS-approved charitable organizations, correct?

Debbie Wilkerson:

And that's what we help donors do on our end to make sure that all the distributions that go out of your donor-advised fund are to IRS-approved public charities. But it's very simple. We make sure that we cover that side of the administrative burden for the donors.

Kelly Scanlon:

You also offer professional advisory services to help guide donor decision-making. Talk to us about how that works.

Debbie Wilkerson:

So say for example, you are at a stage in life when you are wanting to involve your grandchildren. And you've been happily giving to the causes you care about regularly, frequently year after year, but you're at a stage now where you're thinking, all right, I need someone to come in and help me engage my grandchildren in this process. So we've got philanthropic advisors that can help you do just that. Or say, for example, you're entering into a new space where you're thinking I'd like to say, for example, apply a racial equity lens to my giving, but I had no idea how to begin to do that. And I need a safe place, a trusted advisor that can just help me start to navigate that. And we've got folks on staff that you can have your own advisor and we don't limit this to a certain size of funds. It just as you need and as you decide, I need a little help in this particular area, we'll assign a person to you and you've got somebody that's a personality match, a good expertise match for you.

Kelly Scanlon:

You have a multitude of giving programs. They range from individual and family, which you've just talked about with the grandchildren and so forth. Corporate giving, and there's several others. One that really caught my attention was the impact investing. That's where someone can use their charitable assets to make social or environmental impact and perhaps get a financial return as well. So give us an example to explain that particular fund or that particular program.

Debbie Wilkerson:

So back when I said the magic of a donor-advised fund and how donors at every level can give more than they even contributed to their fund, it's because the fund is growing. And so what more and more donors in today's age are looking at is saying, all right, I'm going to be very intentional about where I am granting, what organizations I'm picking to grant. But now I'm also going to be intentional about how I grow those assets in the fund. And if you think about that, that's a double impact. So there are so many more vehicles out there that we are working with donors to help them grow their assets in a way that meets their social, their civic, their philosophy about the issues that they care about. So say for example, there are now environmental funds or socially responsible investing opportunities. And when I say socially responsible investing, that means something different to a lot of different donors and the tools and the lens at which those resources exist out there has just evolved immensely over the past years.

Debbie Wilkerson:

But there's also more specific types of investing that folks can do in today's day if they want to be more specific. They, for example, Water.org has set up an equity piece of their work. I was on the phone the other day, where they're looking for investments in housing opportunities. And those are sort of in this recoverable grant opportunity where people may say, here, I'll grant you this money with an expectation that you return it in X number of years, after setting up X number of houses. There are many, many, many ways that people are now taking an impact investment approach to their charitable fund.

Kelly Scanlon:

That's a wonderful vehicle to be able to support those kinds of causes and to get a return so that your portfolio continues to grow or your fund continues to grow as well. Because I think one of the things we didn't talk about that I think is an important point to make is that once you put those dollars in, even though they may be dispersed over a number of years, you cannot come back out and personally recoup those dollars, right? Any investment that you make, any return on it goes back into charitable initiatives, right?

Debbie Wilkerson:

Exactly. And that is actually what donors love about this. This is such a happy space in their world because they have, when they made that initial contribution into their fund, they did it at a time that they captured that moment when it made sense financially for them. So now years down the road, say for example, especially during COVID, we watched this happen where markets were down, everybody was nervous, but yet donors out of their donor-advised funds were granting at record pace. And if you think about that, that's the beauty of what happened there is because they were no longer making personal decisions. Like, wow, I still need to get a car, or I needed to do this or that. They knew they had set those dollars aside so they could continue to give, even when markets were down, they may have felt like, oh, I wouldn't be able to do that otherwise. They had this really beautiful account set up to do just that.

Kelly Scanlon:

Exactly. And at a time when those dollars really mattered to the organizations that were receiving them. So that's an excellent point. Many people set up charitable giving accounts because they care about making a difference in their community. There's lots of different national charities and so forth, but a lot of people really want to make a difference in the neighborhoods, the world that they live in every day. So how much of those charitable dollars tend to stay in Kansas City?

Debbie Wilkerson:

We have a very large percentage of dollars that stay in the Kansas and Missouri region. That's very important. But it is also interesting, and our donors here in Kansas City have this amazing worldview. So while we say it's important to serve our community, and we have a lot of programming built around issues and needs and specific areas of interest in Kansas City, we also layer in that Kansas City is a city within a country, within the world. And so say for example, we did a program on human trafficking and there are organizations and critical organizations right here in Kansas City addressing those issues.

Debbie Wilkerson:

But if you're going to attack the human trafficking issue, you have to also be knowledgeable at a national level. You have to be knowledgeable at an international level. And so what we try to do for our donors is provide them that full spectrum. So we don't just say, or shake a finger at them saying, oh, you have to keep all your dollars in this region. Because our region is only as strong... I mean, we're a city in a country in the world. And so giving needs to understand that, that donors are working at all levels many times.

Kelly Scanlon:

There's been much said, lot reported on about the millennial generation and their focus on keeping their values in social causes, aligned with their jobs. They want the companies that they work for to be socially conscious, for example. So how do you think that mindset will impact the next generation of philanthropy as we go forward for the next two, three, four decades as they come into their full spending power.

Debbie Wilkerson:

Isn't that the best part? I mean, for me, that just gives us such confidence in this next generation to carry forward the infrastructure of philanthropy has built in our country. I mean, if you think about it, it's extremely important that we support the philanthropic sector. Not only now, but in future generations, our country has built around, you're born in the hands of a nonprofit. You are educated in a nonprofit. You will die in the arms of a nonprofit. These are all these different places that it's the infrastructure. The regard that the next generation has with that infrastructure is just inspiring to me.

Debbie Wilkerson:

So what we're helping a lot of companies do is you mentioned the philanthropic advisors, we have advisors that are specialists in the corporate work and the ways that companies can ingrain the infrastructure of giving into their company so that while they are busily keeping people employed and making sure their work environment is a good one, they can also intersperse the charitable giving aspect throughout the company in ways that are not difficult. We make that very easy, but it begins to build that culture of what this company is about. That company can make sure that they're giving aligns with their purpose and it feels like one. And that is the personality of the company shining through in their getting. And the employees this next generation is absolutely going to pick their jobs based on that.

Kelly Scanlon:

We talked a little bit about Kansas City and how generous it is. And especially for a smaller market, Kansas City really is known for its generosity. It seems like every year you see some national ranking that puts Kansas City near the top, punching way above its weight in terms of its population and so forth. But it ranks right up there with some of the other major, major cities in the country for its charitable giving. And even, I have to plug, you even the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation has consistently ranked in the top 1% of community foundations throughout the country. And I believe there's around 700 or so of those. So what accounts for that? What is it about the Kansas City spirit or psyche or just makeup that you've seen working in this field accounts that?

Debbie Wilkerson:

I love it. We do work for donors all across the country. As I mentioned, we've built quite a national reputation for great giving infrastructure. And it was interesting, I was asking somebody from one of the coasts, well, why did you come to us? And they said, "Well, you all are really smart. You all know what you're doing and you're nice to work with." And I think that Midwestern, none of us are too good or too proud to just be nice and kind to one another. So I think it starts with that, but the community foundation would never take full credit for building this philanthropic reputation that we have here in this community. We have amazing ecosystem. And as I work with other community foundations all across the country, I bust with pride about this region because we have an ecosystem built around our philanthropy that maybe not everybody understands or really appreciates.

Debbie Wilkerson:

For example, Nonprofit Connect. They are the organization here that builds expertise, builds resources, builds data for the nonprofit sector. So each nonprofit has a stronger and better for the work that they bring to this sector. Fantastic United Way that allows people to join together and give to these causes. Our job in this ecosystem is to work for the donors and make sure they have resources and be ready to grant when the causes and the needs arise. So this amazing ecosystem and not to mention, or not to forget Country Club Bank, and all the other businesses that make it a priority.

Kelly Scanlon:

For our listeners who are interested in learning more about your services, perhaps how to actually start a fund with you, what is the best way for them to do it?

Debbie Wilkerson:

Well, there's several different ways. Number one, if you have a financial advisor that you're working with, talk to them, we've got this really open platform and we can set up a fund that keeps them involved in the investment side of it. Or contact us directly and we can help you get started. Our website is www.GrowYourGiving.org. That's three words, GrowYourGiving.org. And we do mean that. And my last thought is just to make sure you know this is for donors at any level. We want to build the infrastructure and resources for you and help you be intentional about your giving, now and into the future.

Kelly Scanlon:

Thank you so much for being our guest today, talking with us about this very important organization that is helping to shape, through the contribution shape the future of our community. Really appreciate it.

Debbie Wilkerson:

Thank you, it's a pleasure.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, president of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Debbie Wilkerson for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC, to discuss how individuals, families, and companies can leave a legacy of giving. Kansas City is known as our nation's heartland and we've earned a reputation as the Heartland of philanthropy as well. That's because the Kansas City area has created a strong ecosystem to support charitable giving. A major part of that ecosystem is the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, which provides the resources and tools that help donors organize, manage, and maximize their philanthropic gifts. The foundation is one of the most well-respected leaders on charitable giving in the United States. Country Club Bank is proud to be a part of the foundation's network of professional advisors who assist donors with their charitable decision-making. Like the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, we believe charitable giving should be convenient and accessible to anyone who wants to improve the quality of life in Kansas City. Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.