Community foundation retooling fundraising with new focus on younger donors

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WALLA WALLA -- The non-profit Blue Mountain Community Foundation is refocusing its efforts in a three-year strategic plan to increase its grant money supply.

Lawson Knight, executive director, said that although the foundation has been and will be drawn into many activities that help shape the community, its primary job is to help people support the Valley.

"Our job is to talk to donors about giving," he said.

The foundation annually distributes interest earned from more than 250 charitable trusts. As of June 30, 2011, the foundation's net endowment assests creating that interest-earning principle was more than $24.5 million, according to an outside audit.

In 2011 the foundation gave out 604 grants totaling nearly $1.7 million.

Knight and his board are developing ways to keep the giving growing, with a new look at including a younger demographic.

"We have traditionally focused on donors who are retired or at retirement," he said. "We've excluded a population that wants to give."

Boards of nonprofits seeking donations will have to enlarge the funding picture, Knight said, pointing to an article in the 2012 Millennial Impact Report that says 75 percent of young American adults gave charitably in 2011.

And they do it mostly online, something foundations should consider when designing their websites. The numbers are projected to shoot up.

Nearly $12 billion was donated electronically in 2010, according to the USA Giving Foundation. That number is expected to be $185 billion by 2018.

"Young donors, in fact, share the same motivations as older people," according to a recent article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Many young donors support charities because they've developed a relationships with the organizations.

About 63 percent of those surveyed reported that they volunteered for a nonprofit last year.

The other "significant" push Knight sees in younger givers is a desire to say where and how they want their money used now instead of dictating it in a will.

Labeled "donor-advised funds," the movement is growing in popularity, Knight said. "What you give to is important to you. It's not for us to sit on high and tell you what to invest in."

The Blue Mountain Community Foundation is developing a "mutual fund" style of giving for such folks. For example, if a person wants to improve education, the foundation offers a general education category where the donor can help a number of programs.

When it comes together, everyone helps each other in a community, Knight summarized. "The virtuous cycle - if we're successful, that's what it will look like."

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