Dan Martel: You're listening to Creating Impact Through Giving, a podcast brought to you by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation providing you with the stories, techniques, and tools around impactful giving.
On this show, we'll talk to donors, professional advisors, nonprofit leaders, and our team of experts to identify charitable strategies that have resulted in some of our most impactful gifts.
I'm your host Dan Martel and today we want to kick off this series by introducing some of our experts that will help guide us through this conversation today. Jennifer Meckling, Director of our Charitable Organization Endowment Program - hi Jennifer.
Jennifer Meckling: Hi Dan, thanks for having me in.
Dan: Our director of scholarship programs, Jessica Schwager - welcome, Jess.
Jessica Schwager: Thank you so much for having me!
Dan: And Joe Carter, vice president of development here at the Foundation. Joe, welcome. Good to have all of you here. Later in the episode, I'll introduce you to Nancy Anthony, the president of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, and we'll discuss how the organization got started and how it grew over the last 50 years.
So Joe, let me start with you. You've been with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation for a number of years and we're the size of a city block here from 9th to 10th Street and cars drive by this building every day and I bet there are plenty of people that look over and say, “I wonder what those folks do in there.” So, maybe, in a nutshell, Joe, if you could kind of tell us what we do here at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.
Joe Carter: Well, I would say, if you're looking at it in a bicycle spoke, there are four spokes to the wheel. What that encompasses is, one, we assist donors, families, corporations in carrying out their philanthropic intent.
Two, we're one of the state's largest providers of scholarships, meaning that donors come in and establish a scholarship based on the criteria they set forth.
Three, we are really one of the nation's largest providers of charitable organization endowment funds, meaning that the nonprofits in the community that wish to have an endowment fund with us, we will manage that for them.
And then lastly, with any unrestricted funds that we may have, we have a grant program in which we provide grants back to the local nonprofits to meet, what I would say, in many cases are gap fillers - areas in which those nonprofits may need additional funding that they're not getting from their typical donor base. So, they can reach out to us and we'll fulfill that.
I think the biggest misnomer that we have is - so many people will think that we have a large amount of unrestricted dollars, but really just about everything here is restricted to some particular charitable cause or focus that either the donors or the organizations or the corporations or whoever it may be, have earmarked for future support.
Dan: Fantastic, that's good to know. So, I want to talk a little bit more about your role, too, so tell me how long you've been with the Foundation and tell me what you do here.
Joe: Well, I've been here 16 years. The roles have really not changed greatly over the years. Titles have come and gone. So, I've been in the nonprofit space for about 30 years, and I came in here to enhance and broaden our relationships with professional advisors, that being attorneys, trust officers, CPAs, really helping them understand what the Community Foundation could assist them in as they help their clients, whether it being in estate planning, tax planning, business planning. Over time, that kind of morphed into planned giving. Planned giving is really the practice of working with donors on estate gifts or helping them understand how they can leave a gift not only to their children but also to charities. So, that essentially allowed me to use the relationships that I built up to turn around and then provide more educational support to them and work with their donors one-on-one for that type of planning service. Few years went by and then I found myself overseeing all of the development activities here at the Foundation, but first and foremost, I'll always be kind of a donor contact, helping them with strategic plans and providing educational support for both organizations and advisors.
Dan: Excellent, excellent. You know, if you were to tell somebody out there, one of our listeners perhaps might be interested in establishing a fund here or they might be interested in having a scholarship named after them, leave a gift of some sort - where do you even get started? How do you tell folks what to do?
Joe: Well, that's the beauty of it. We don't tell anybody what to do; we help them uncover what they'd like to do. And oftentimes, that starts with a conversation of ‘Why are you here?' And then we really dive into: What are you passionate about? What are causes that you like to support? Are there particular charities that you've been involved with in the past? And then that kind of leads us down the road to dig a little bit deeper to find out if they're wanting to support those organizations now or are they wanting to support those organizations in the future? Are they wanting to make a gift now, or sometime into the future? Is it one charity or is it multiple charities? Is this something they want to do individually or do they want to have their family involved with it? Or is this something they want to have multiple generations involved in?
We are not a fundraising organization, which, I think, that is one thing that separates us from many other organizations. We don't fundraise at all. Rather than that, we really assist and facilitate a donor's true passions. So rather than us going out and physically ask for a dollar to support something we're doing, we're actually trying to uncover what YOU want to do. And it's a totally different mindset.
Dan: Oh, that's really interesting because, obviously, it sounds like you guys can get pretty creative here in determining how somebody perhaps wants to create an impact in the community. So, it's not really a one-size-fits-all type of approach, is that correct.
Joe: I would say that's absolutely correct. The one-size-fits-all, that's the general practice. That's how a lot of organizations work with their donors: ‘This is what we need as an organization and whether you have a dollar or you have $100,000, we need your support.' And here we really try to get down to ‘how do YOU want to have the greatest impact?' And then help and aid them in understanding what kind of impact they can have both in the short run as well as the long run.
Dan: I guess the question I have then, too, is - why OCCF? Why give through us and not through your financial advisor perhaps. Let's talk a little bit about the difference between here and something else.
Joe: Well, again, I think the thing that separates OCCF from especially larger commercial outfits or financial institutions and so forth is: we are a local charity. The money is here, and oftentimes the money is made here and many of our donors like the fact that the money is going to stay here. And we try to think of ourselves as more than a money manager. Because, in the end of the day, you can go to any financial firm and have them manage your money. But what we try to bring is, we have an excellent staff, a very knowledgeable staff.
Oftentimes, [donors] may have a cause they want to support, but that doesn't necessarily mean they equate to a particular charity. So they may be interested in animal welfare but they don't know where and whom to give to. So, in this case, this is where our staff will come in and help them identify various local charities, and/or national depending on their scope, and sit down with them and help them manage that giving. You're probably not going to find that at a financial institution, as far as your advisor sitting down. They may be interested in your charitable efforts but being able to carry that out in a helpful manner may or may not be there. And often in some of the larger financial firms, they have a call bank. They're waiting for donors to call in in order for them to write checks and get out. Again, nothing wrong with that. But for those donors that are looking for expertise and a better understanding of where gaps are here in Oklahoma City and some of those organizations that have programming that they may or may not be familiar with, that's the reason to come in here.
And on the other side, I think one of the things that makes us attractive, not that fees are the end-all-be-all, but in our circumstance, we have really low-cost fees that are associated with the Foundation, so we're extremely competitive with commercial funds and certainly with other donor-advised platforms.
Dan: Joe, I want to rope Jessica in here now. A large part of what we do here is centered on the specific causes that are near and dear to our donors. Education seems to be something that so many donors care about. Jess, the OCCF has developed one of the largest, independent scholarship programs in the state, what do we need to know about giving and receiving scholarships?
Jess: That's a great question. Well, when it comes to our scholarship programs like you said, we are the largest independent scholarship provider, so a lot of donors don't know that. What's interesting about that is, we have a really great network that we work with to promote our scholarships. Sometimes donors just don't know how to promote scholarships to students so I think that that's really unique about us. We have a great network of guidance counselors across the state of Oklahoma that we work really closely with to make sure we get qualified applicants into our system. That's just kind of a key point about our scholarship program that's a little unique.
Dan: How many scholarships does the Foundation award every year?
Jess: Yes, so we have over 150 different scholarship funds that we award through an online system every single year, and this past year, we awarded right around 800 scholarship recipients with scholarships. High school and college students can receive our scholarships as well.
Dan: That's a lot of folks!
Jess: That's a lot of folks, yeah. (laughs)
Dan: I can imagine that a lot of these students are particularly surprised when they find out they receive a scholarship?
Jess: Oh yeah, all across the board! We send award letters - and this year has been a little bit unique, we sent emails and also did phone calls to notify the students - and I mean, I've had reactions from where they started crying about the scholarship, you can hear the excitement. I've had one student, I remember she was kind of shaking and she was jumping up and down with her mom and so yeah, all sorts of reactions.
Dan: That is outstanding. So you mentioned that scholarships are available for scholarship students as well. How does that work?
Jess: Yeah. So, we have two kinds of scholarships really. A lot of times, when donors are setting up scholarships, they will be pretty specific in their requirements about where they want the scholarship to go. And for the most part, I was looking at the numbers from last year, we awarded about 50 percent of our scholarships to students in high school. The students have to be graduating high school seniors and they apply during their junior year for these scholarships. And then the other portion of our scholarships are for college students. So, whether they're at OU, OSU, OCU, UCO - wherever they are, they can apply for scholarships as well.
Dan: You know, one of the things I know that you guys do a lot here at the Foundation, is you award the scholarship recipients with luncheons. Tell a little bit about how that works!
Jess: Yes! Every single year, except for this year sadly, every single year we notify students if they have received one of our Community Foundation Scholars awards or New Opportunities awards. The New Opportunities award is for first-generation students, and then the Community Foundation Scholars award is for students who work really hard with community service. Both of these students have to be from 53 high schools throughout central Oklahoma, so in order to qualify for those particular scholarships, they have to be from those high schools. Once they're awarded with a scholarship, we work really hard with their guidance counselors to coordinate times for those students to actually come in for a luncheon. We invite donors, the donors get to sit with students, and then we hear from past scholarship recipients, the president of our scholarship committee, so we have all sorts of guests that come in throughout the week. We schedule it over a week because we have about 170 students that will come to this. It is so neat to get to hear each student's story and just get to honor them in that way.
Dan: I want to back up here for a second. You mentioned first-gen. Tell me about that, how that works and how special that must be.
Dan: I want to back up a second. You mentioned First Gen.
Dan: Tell me about that, and how that works, and how special that must be.
Jessica: I love working with first-generation students. How we define it I think is a little bit different than how other places define it. But for our first-generation scholarship students, parents, nor their grandparents could ever even step foot on college. So they're brand new to college. The reason for that is we want to then award them and we give them this booklet to complete that really sets them up for success to get to college. Once they complete that booklet, then over the course of their senior year we then award them with a scholarship.
So that booklet includes things like applying for college admission, taking a campus tour, doing some sort of community service component that really makes their application look competitive, and then doing financial aid workshops and FAFSA workshops. So once they do all of those components, then we say, hey, congrats, you completed this book here's a $2,000 scholarship for when you attend college. So we really hope that that gets them prepared for the actual college experience.
Dan: Fantastic. I can only imagine how some of those students must react when they find out they were awarded the scholarship. That's exciting. Why do you see such a rising interest in creating scholarships among our donors?
Jessica: That's a great question. I see interests all across the board with donors, but I think the one main thing is that it leaves a lasting impact on education forever. So if a donor sets up an endowment, we get to honor them or whatever legacy they'd like to leave with a scholarship forever. Long past the time that that donor has passed away we get to leave a legacy for education. I do see a lot of scholarships come in as some sort of like a Memorial type scholarship. A lot of times that's to honor a loved one who has passed away and then their passion for education as well. I think that's really neat because it just, every single year we get to honor a new student in memory of that loved one and every year they get to tell the story of that loved one forever. So I think that that's really a key reason why.
Dan: That's fantastic. That is excellent to know. What's something that you look forward to doing about your job and is there a favorite success story that you might have in particular?
Jessica: I would say the one thing I really look forward to every year is going out to college fairs. We get a schedule together, and then we actually get to go out and meet with high school seniors and promote our scholarships and tell them what our scholarship application is all about. I love that interaction with the students. That is absolutely my favorite part. I would say probably if you talk to our team, that's one of their favorite parts too, is just getting out there and talking to students.
As for success stories. So one thing in addition to working with students is we work with guidance counselors from across the state of Oklahoma. Last year was my first year here. I worked really hard with Rick Fernandez who's in charge of our Central Oklahoma Guidance Counselor network to produce a summer institute. So what the summer institute is, is that he coordinated with people from Texas, people from all across the state of Oklahoma that are in higher education and admissions. He pulled those people in to then provide a two-day conference with guidance counselors from across the state to just give them extra education when it comes to college admission. So I have to applaud him for...he got all that together and that's in addition to everything else we have going on. So I think that's really a success story that we were able to get that together. Talking with him, I think, you know, every couple of years we'll keep doing that and keep educating people from across the state.
Dan: You know donors are the backbone of what we do and nonprofits play a huge role as well, obviously. I want to bring Jennifer in to talk a little bit about this. So Jennifer, tell me about your role with the foundation and the Charitable Endowment Program that we have here at OCCF.
Jennifer: Sure. Dan, I'll start with my title. I'm the Director of the Charitable Organization Endowment Program with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. That's a whole lot of words. So around here, we shorten that to COE. So if I refer to COE, you'll know what I'm talking about. That's our Charitable Organization Endowments, and that's a group of about 370 organizations that have permanent endowments at the community foundation. About a quarter of our holdings are in those endowed funds. So there's a lot of money that's going back out into the community every year. It's about $8 million. So among my roles here is one, making sure that those organizations are operating in an effective and efficient way. Two is helping those organizations build support for those endowments so that those endowments can grow and provide support for even future generations and needs in the community.
Dan: You know it's funny, we talk a lot about the power of endowment. For our listeners, what exactly does that power mean?
Jennifer: So I think it'd be helpful to start with the basic nuts and bolts of what our endowment program is here. As I mentioned before, these are permanently endowed funds. So that means, like a savings account for an organization that resides here permanently. So that money never goes back out. What we do is we try to grow that fund through investment performance. So we have an investment committee who does a really good job of making sure that those investments have a slow and steady growth pattern so that that money will grow over time. Then each year each organization is given a check for 5% of the market value of that fund. So they get a little bit of money each year and that fund continues to grow. So the growth comes from that reinvestment and that compound interest is really where the magic of investment comes from.
You know, it reminds me of the adage. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. Well, the best time to start an endowment fund is about 20 years ago. The second best time is now. This is a gift that a Board or staff or donors can leave to the community and to the organization and they can plan for that future. The best way to illustrate it really, I think is a good example. I'll use some small numbers and we'll make some assumptions on the investment performance for a fund as just sort of average over this time period.
So if I, as a donor gave your organization $500 a year for 20 years that would equal...
Dan: I'm not good at math Jennifer. So I'm going to let you fill in that number.
Jennifer: That's about $10,000 over 20 years. So that's $10,000. I think anybody would consider that a fantastic gift.
Jennifer: Now, if we choose to give that in a different way, if instead of taking that $500 each year, and we put that into an endowment fund, as opposed to, into operational funds. That $500 a year into an endowment operating the way that our endowments do here, the same amount of money giving $10,000, at $500 a year. That total impact would be about $20,000. So that's made up of about $13,000 in the market value of the fund that's grown over time. That organization will have gotten about $6,400 in that 5% check every year. So that $10,000 versus $20,000 for the same amount of money being given. I can do even better than that, that same $10,000 given all at once at the beginning of that 20 years if that was invested in the same way. So given at the beginning of the 20 years, matured over time, that same $10,000 would have yielded over $31,000.
Jennifer: So that's made up of that 5% distribution over $13,000 and the fund itself will be worth over 18,000.
Dan: Well, and again, we go back to, you know, the title of our podcast that does indeed create quite an impact. You know, you mentioned you've worked with, or the OCCF works with 360 plus nonprofits. You're obviously talking to a lot of people every day. What's your favorite thing about working with all these different nonprofits?
Jennifer: Well, I'd like to say if you've seen one nonprofit, you've seen one nonprofit, they're all different. That's one of the things that I enjoy so much about it. We have everything from small organizations that have no paid staff up to universities and hospitals. So everyone that I deal with has a different story. They have different passions and they have different concerns in the community and they're trying to meet those concerns in different ways. So I just enjoy the variety of it and the way that we can help them in different ways. I really feel that if I can empower someone, whether that's a donor board or staff to meet their own charitable goals in some way that the whole community can count that as
Dan: You know, one of the things that I've certainly learned since I've been here is that we do a lot of educational-type events to bring people in, to kind of teach them a little bit about what we do and sort of get them involved that way. What are some of the things that you do for nonprofits in the community?
Jennifer: We have several series of workshops in normal times that we run here at the Community Foundation. One is called the Seeds of Planned Giving. That's a series that Joe Carter has been heading up for several years. That goes into all the different plan giving vehicles that donors and nonprofits can take advantage of to build their fund. There are a lot of tax-advantageous gifts that people can give out there and a lot of really complicated things that people can learn. But if we learn some small little bits of it, we can attract some of those gifts from those generous donors and they can do it in a strategic way. So that series is all about all those different ways that we can give strategically toward a better community.
Since I've been here, I've also added in a new series called Focus on Endowment, and that's really taking that focus, even though we are talking about Planned Giving it's taking the focus back to actually investing that in our endowments. And seeing that endowment as a tool that we have, not only to encourage donors to give in a strategic way, but it's something that we'll be giving to our organization, to our community forever. Especially in times like these, when things are a little bit uncertain, we know that we can count on that endowment fund to continue to give us that support year after year.
Dan: That is excellent. I'm just curious to know, have you had nonprofits after attending one of these events, have you had some of them call and say I'm in.
Jennifer: Absolutely. I had somebody call me and say, I've never been excited about fundraising before, and this excites me because I can help a donor give in a really strategic way that will have a real lasting impact.
Dan: Fantastic. Everybody has something that has really touched them along the way. Do you have a favorite endowment success story?
Jennifer: I actually do. Anyone who's been to any of my workshops has probably heard me talk about it because it is such a wonderful story. There's a small organization that is volunteer only and they're made up of volunteers from across the state. So they're rather loosely knit and they started their endowment fund about 10 years ago with an initial gift of $12,000. In those 10 years, their fund has grown to 10 times that, and that is just through persistently applying for matching funds through the Kirkpatrick family fund. They've managed to grow their fund over that time. That's with, as I said, no paid staff at all. So if they can do it, anybody can do it.
Dan: Now I want to introduce our listeners to Nancy Anthony, president of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. Nancy, your name is synonymous with this foundation. You mentioned to me at one point that you've done every job here, including preparing meals for the staff, which I think is fantastic. I'd like to share with our listeners a little history of the foundation. So how did this all get started?
Nancy: Community Foundations have existed in the States since about 1908. So in about 1969, John Kirkpatrick, who was an oilman in Oklahoma City, a very generous philanthropist really wanted to figure out how to encourage other people to make gifts and to do things. So he did some research with an attorney here in town and they discovered that there were these community foundations that had existed and they kind of came out of bank trust departments. Years ago bank trust departments would have these charitable funds that had been left for their care, but they didn't necessarily know how to use the dollars. So they put together community committees and those community committees became community foundations.
So the community foundation was designed to make it easy for people to make contributions, or just as importantly to maybe leave money in their estate to support things that they were interested in and especially to support the community in general. Mr. Kirkpatrick was 62 in 1969. So it wasn't like he was looking for, you know, a brand new idea, but for him to have started something as significant as he did when he was 62 years old was really, it's really kind of an interesting story, but he stayed with it for a long, long time. He did a lot of things to encourage people to make contributions. He worked with the bank trust departments initially, to encourage their customers to think about the possibility of either establishing a fund or leaving a bequest in their estate. So it's kind of taken off from there.
Dan: You know, one question I have is I know that this foundation is one of the largest providers for scholarships in the state too. How did that happen? And how did that grow so quickly?
Nancy: Well, scholarships are something that many donors really understand. So there were a couple of initial people who wanted to set up scholarship funds, which the community foundation did. One of the very first ones was Edward Gaylord, who was the publisher of the Oklahoman at that time. So in his estate, he left a very nice gift. Then we had another gift from a lady named, Willie Elizabeth Shipley. So those were two very nice gifts that we were able to start a scholarship fund, but the biggest impact of the scholarship fund came after the bombing of the Murrah building in 1995 when the Community Foundation took over a number of scholarship funds that were established for the benefit of children who lost a parent, especially one that was established by the governor of Oklahoma.
So that really was a very significant increase in our scholarship activity. But what it did was give us the opportunity to say, hey, we're able to support and to administer scholarships, are there other people who would want to do that? So since that time, it really has taken off primarily because we have the staff support to administer scholarships. They're very labor-intensive, you have to work at it. Because we had enough of a basis for doing it as a result of those initial gifts and then as a result of working with the survivors' fund, then the scholarship program has really exploded.
Dan: You know, I was talking to Joe earlier on the show and one of the things that's very unique to this foundation is just how creative one could get in terms of establishing a fund or something like that. How do we work with donors and, you know, what do we do to encourage them to kind of be creative in their gift leaving, if you will?
Nancy: I think it's interesting when people are willing to be creative. More frequently than not, they think that they have to leave money for a particular organization or a particular charity, but when they really think about what they would really like to do, the best story that I know of that is Margaret Annis Boyes, who hadn't had any heirs, had no brothers and sisters, had no one to leave her funds to and went to her trust officer at the bank. He said, what do you want to do? She said, well, I guess I'll have to give it to the university or give it to the church. He said, well what would you really like to do? And she said, I'd really like to beautify Oklahoma City, the parks and the natural beauty of the community. He said, I think I know a way that might be able to help you to do that.
And he was familiar with the Community Foundation because he had worked with Mr. Kirkpatrick. That has created just one of the most incredible opportunities for us to take her words, to take her ideas, and then put a program around it that really uses those dollars efficiently and really has made an incredible impact in the community. It was a large gift at the time, but in terms of the impact that it has had to attract other dollars and to attract other interest, it's really been important. But a lot of that just came from her creativity and her willingness to think about what she would really like to do.
Dan: Fantastic. When you arrived here, you've been at the foundation for 30 years, ish, somewhere around there.
Nancy: At least.
Dan: Okay. What do you see as the most significant change over the last 50 years since Mr. Kirkpatrick started this foundation?
Nancy: At the time I started, many of our donors were still alive and we were working with a lot of organizations and a lot of endowment funds and a lot of very fixed distributions of things. Since that time, a lot of the donors of the funds that have come in here have come from people after they've passed away. So there's less donor involvement and many of those kinds of things, but we are able to then take the donor's wishes and then try to implement those in the community. I think that expansion of the ability of the community foundation to actually address the current community needs based on information that donors might have left, whether it was about healthcare or about children or about education, but taking those interests and say, well, how would you do that now in Oklahoma City?
Dan: You know one of the questions I wanted to ask. There's a sort of spontaneity that tends to happen sometimes depending on weather or different circumstances. The foundation seems to be so equipped and quick to act on if we have a disaster of sorts. How does that work?
Nancy: I think that's a very significant role that the Community Foundation has established in the community, to be able to serve an immediate need. If you think about other organizations in the community who are very well situated to do specific things, whether it's the Red Cross or the hospital, or the Boy Scouts they know how to do very things, but to be able to respond into a variety of issues is kind of what our opportunity is to be able to work with donors to respond right now. Frequently we go on and work with other organizations to actually accomplish that, but that flexibility that we have to actually take dollars and put them together with other people and then accomplish a mission depending on what the need is probably one of the real assets that we bring to the community that probably just unique to what we do because we don't operate any specific programs. We work with donors to try to accomplish what they want to.
Dan: Where do you see the foundation going in the future?
Nancy: I think that there are lots of people now that understand that whatever gifts they have or resources they have can really be impactful over the long term. They can be very thoughtful about that and can think through how they might want that to happen. Then they can set those kinds of things up with the expectation that others going forward can administer those things based on some general guidelines, like a Margaret Annis BoysTrust. I mean, we don't do orchestras with the Margaret Annis Boys Trust, we plant trees because that's what she wanted to do, but we know where to plant the trees and how to plant them and how to do that well. I think the opportunity to work with people about doing things beyond their lifetime, but yet is still within keeping is probably the thing that is most inspiring.
Dan: Fantastic. I think you've given us a good rundown on some of the history and what happens here at the foundation. So thank you very much. It looks like that's all the time we have left for this episode. I want to thank today's guests, Joe Carter, Jennifer McLean, Jessica Schwager, and of course, Nancy Anthony.
Creating Impact Through Giving is brought to you by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, a nonprofit that works with donors to create charitable funds that benefit our community both now and in the future. For all episodes and more information visit www.occf.org/impact.
Thanks for listening today. I'd like to leave you with this. Everybody wants to create some kind of impact in your community. What would you like to do? Contact the Oklahoma City Community Foundation and let us help you turn your legacy into a reality today. See you next time.