Wichita Community Foundation offers donors the chance to ‘keep doing good forever’

01/04/2014 4:10 PM

01/05/2014 7:00 AM

The Wichita Community Foundation was started in 1986 by Dick DeVore, with help later from Mary Lynn Oliver and a number of other donors.

It’s one of Wichita’s best ideas that few people know about, Oliver said.

Among many other things, Oliver said, DeVore and the founders created nest eggs as well as philanthropy. The Community Foundation invests money brought in – and keeps growing the principal while handing out donations.

It started in 1986 with $735,000. It has given out $74 million in philanthropy since then, but still managed to grow the principal to $61 million.

At first, in the 1980s, the amounts the Community Foundation gave to scholarships or philanthropy were small – a few thousand every year, according to its own numbers.

But in 1996, 10 years after it was founded, the Community Foundation gave $1.5 million to various causes. By 2005, it handed out about $8 million; in 2008, it gave $9 million.

The Community Foundation accomplished all this by offering donors not only the chance to do good, but to “keep doing good forever,” as foundation president Shelly Prichard put it. It accomplished that by offering the Community Foundation’s services as charitable advisors.

So, for example, Prichard said, in 1989 and 1990, Dorth and Virginia Coombs gave the Community Foundation $240,471. The family has now leveraged it to give $346,215 in philanthropy, but there is still $288,735 in the fund, $48,000 more than the Coombs’original gift.

The 2008 recession knocked 2009 donations to the community down to $3 million. But by fiscal 2012, they were back up to nearly $6 million, in spite of the weak economy.

Over 25 years, the Community Foundation has given money to everything from dogs and cats at the Humane Society to students seeking scholarships to local colleges to new businesses with interesting ideas to the poor served by United Methodist Open Door.

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