Akron Community Foundation vs. the largest wealth transfer in U.S. history

 

Petures also learned about fund-holders’ desire to connect more intimately with the beneficiaries of their generosity — the organizations working in the field addressing community issues.

“They just didn’t want us to tell them, ‘Here’s where the needs were,’” Petures says. “They wanted to see it.”

ACF switched from primarily talking with people in its boardroom, explaining the problems and the pathways toward their solutions, and instead offered them opportunities to visit the nonprofits and the communities that stood to benefit from donors’ gifts. Through this format, he says nonprofits, community leaders and organizers can speak for themselves, directly to the people who can help fund their efforts to make real and tangible change happen.

“We connect them to those leaders,” he says. “And when they learn about it, they tell others. They come back and tell us how they’re excited about it as well.”

By listening to its fund-holders, the ACF is also becoming more donor-centric by adjusting its standard donor-advised fund agreement. Previously, the agreement did not allow for legacy advisement, meaning that once an individual fund-holder who established a fund passed away, those funds often, by the sheer nature of the language of the agreement, would become part of the ACF board’s discretionary pool and available for grant-making.

“And when we looked at leading practices across the county, it was like, wait a minute, this is rather simple. Just change the provision for those that want to pass down this opportunity to give back to the community to the next generation of children and grandchildren,” Petures says.

In new arrangement, the family member who takes over the fund has the authority to make grant recommendations moving forward. This is a critical demand of aging boomers who are about to bequeath the largest collective inheritance on their heirs this country has ever experienced and want to ensure their familial benefactors have the means for community giving.

But in addition to the means, Greater Akron fund-holders, as well as donors countrywide, are expressing concern that their children and grandchildren may not appreciate the importance of giving back to the community in which their families’ wealth was created. To help make the case for community giving, many are working with their community foundations to find a way to continue their family legacy of community giving.

Next-generation giving

One tactic the Akron Community Foundation will employ is to create a place where multiple generations of family can get together and talk about wealth and giving. That will manifest as the Center for Family Philanthropy, a newly approved extension of ACF’s Cedar Street building.

The Center for Family Philanthropy initiative was first brought up in the ACF boardroom in 2016. Donna M. Coury, J.D., director for the center and the one who will head up the initiative for the foundation, says the desire of fund-holders to have these family meetings sparked the initial conversation.

To facilitate those conversations, a few of the foundation’s development directors will undergo training to help the foundation better conduct multigenerational family meetings at the center, which will host families — in person and through videoconferencing — and house a library to store families’ philanthropic work, their mission statements and meeting notes so that information can be passed from one generation to the next.

“The physical space is important because it makes a welcoming place to bring people together to have discussions and talk about philanthropy, and obtain information on the community and grant-making,” Coury says.