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Transfer of wealth data show that more resources are available in our communities than we might have realized. And we know many of our communities are strapped for resources. How can we connect the two?

Building their own legacy


By Heidi Marttila-Losure, Reporting by Doug Card, Britton Journal; Laura Ptacek, Ipswich Tribune; and Garrick Mortiz, Faulk County Record

Transfer of wealth data show that more resources are available in our communities than we might have realized. And we know many of our communities are strapped for resources. How can we connect the two?

Over the past few decades, many rural Dakota communities have recognized the need to have some sort of mechanism in place so that people who care about their hometowns have a way to give back to them if they want to.

Their answer to that need was to create endowment funds, which will be around to fund community improvements in perpetuity.

Sixty-seven S.D. communities have now created such funds through the South Dakota Community Foundation, where they are called community savings accounts. The North Dakota Community Foundation serves as the umbrella organization for 53 such funds, which are called community endowment funds.

Whatever the terminology, their purpose is the same: Raise money from people who care about a community, and give away a percentage of the fund to benefit the community.

With an endowment, only the interest is spent, while the principal remains so the fund is able to continue supporting the community far into the future.

Having funds managed by the statewide community foundations gives the communities the advantages that come from both large and small investing strategies. For example, funds from all the
community savings accounts at the South Dakota Community Foundation are invested together, which means that communities can take advantage of the investing power that comes with a large amount. Management fees are lower, for example, and the rate of return is often better for larger investments, according to SDCF President Stephanie Judson.

“There’s a real efficiency in all of us working together,” Judson said.

The statewide community foundations also take care of IRS reporting and making sure checks are written when they should be, she said.

The larger foundations also offer fundraising incentives. The NDCF, for example, offers a dollar-for-dollar match for every dollar raised in a community for the first $10,000.

But, even though the funds are held in the larger foundation, the decisions about what happens to the money don’t leave the home community—a local board decides who gets a scholarship or a grant, just as they would if the funds were kept at the local bank.

The transfer of wealth statistics really pushed the SDCF to tell the story in the places where it was vital to have a fund in place soon or risk missing the moment. Bob Sutton, former president of the SDCF, targeted the places where the peak transfer of wealth was imminent. Noel Hamiel, community representative for the SDCF, traveled to many communities to share the information.

The statistics told a powerful story, and many communities subsequently formed community savings accounts. The total endowment of the SDCF, 12 percent of which is in community savings accounts, has reached $160 million. The transfer of wealth data continues to be a powerful motivator as the SDCF works in communities across the state.

Here are some of the ways that community foundations in the Dakotafire region have been giving back to their communities.

Britton Area Foundation

Includes Britton, Hecla, Veblen, Claremont, Lake City and Eden

Started in: 1994

Was it easy to get support or was it a struggle at times?

Frank Farrar was instrumental in helping BAF get its start. He and Horton, Inc., both contributed $100,000, and Sheldahl Manufacturing (no longer in Britton) contributed $50,000 to get Foundation going with the requirement that the community match that $250,000, which it did. Since the start, more than $570,000 has been granted to area projects.

What kinds of fundraising strategies have you tried, and what has worked best?

Among those first fund raisers, the most successful ones were:

• Auction held at Britton Country Club.  We auctioned unusual items that you cannot purchase, such as pontoon rides, guided hunting trips, and lasagna dinners. All auction items were donated by the community.

• Doll auction. This one surprised me the most. We purchased porcelain dolls on stands, and people from the community volunteered to create and make (and donate) costumes for the dolls. We then auctioned them off at an evening event. It was amazing how much that raised.

• Memorials. This ongoing fundraiser continues to bring funds to BAF each month.

What would you say has been your biggest success story?

Once we had enough dollars invested to begin giving back to the communities, the success grew. It is such a wonderful thing to be able to support a community project because we have the funds on hand and are not always held up by having to find the money. The whole BAF process shows forward thinking on the part of a progressive and very philanthropic community.

Do you have any advice for another community that wants to start its own foundation?

It could be easy to start with energy and enthusiasm, and then let things slide after a year or two. This is not a fast process. You need to have a committed board and run the foundation like a business. The results will certainly be worth your efforts.

—Patty Roehr, early board member of the Britton Area Foundation, and Doug Card


Clark Area Community Foundation

Includes Bradley, Carpenter, Clark, Crocker, Garden City, Naples, Raymond, Vienna and Willow Lake

Started in: 2004

Was it easy to get support or was it a struggle at times?

The response from community members was good. The business community responded well almost immediately. Board member meeting attendance gets difficult because everyone is so busy and most have  other jobs. Fundraising has been easier for our board than fund “asking.”

What kinds of fundraising strategies have you tried, and what has worked best?

We have raffled off four-wheelers, and in fact are doing a raffle now. We have also done Tour of Tables, both of which were very successful. We have done mailings to Clark school alumni, and they have been very responsive.

What would you say has been your biggest  success story?

The biggest success we have had so far is raising and capturing the amount of funds we have so far that would have normally left our county. We are approaching $400,000 in our fund balance. We had a generous anonymous donor challenge that offered up to $100,000 and gave $1 for every $4 we raised. We were very grateful for that. And we still hope for that major benefactor that will allow us to make significant differences in the size of grants we can make.

Do you have any advice for another community that wants to start its own foundation?

It’s like planting trees: The best time to do it is yesterday. The true benefits will come once it is fully grown. And plan to start out small with whatever you have, even if it is just an idea or a dream, and keep working at it. Remember, every dollar or donated asset from a donor is a gift for your community forever.

—Tom Labrie, board member


Langford Community Foundation

Includes the communities of Langford, Pierpont and Claremont

Started in: 2008. Following the first meeting, the group had $60,000 in written commitments over the next three years.

Was it easy to get support or did you struggle at times?

Educating folks on how the endowment works was really one of the biggest challenges. There were comments from many people that said, “If we can raise $100,000 cash then we should fix up this, construct that, or improve all these other things.” But I think over the past five years the philosophy has been accepted by much of the larger community and alumni. Donors realize that each year we can do projects that improve our rural quality of life, or plan for larger future project. In five years’ time, Langford has accumulated $175,000 in the endowment and has been able to give away more than $10,000. Going forward we will be able to give away about $7,000 annually.

What kind of fundraising strategies have you tried and what has worked best?

Engaging alumni and local residents has worked best. By personal contacts and telling our story, it has cultivated many different streams of giving.

Our largest project was the Historical Decks of Cards. LCF Board Members solicited card sponsors and printed 1,000 decks that were given to donors with a minimum donation of $10.

Our special occasion cards are also a source of about $6,000 annually. LCF provides free cards to donors for anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas and memorials.

What would you say has been you biggest success story?

Receiving the $25,000 matching grant check from SDCF in front of 600 LHS Alumni during the 125th Celebration after soliciting donations for less than three years was a huge event for us.

Do you have any advice for another community that wants to start its own foundation?

Just take the leap of faith in developing a local community foundation under South Dakota s umbrella. Small town folks are givers by nature and have the core belief that we should help our neighbors. The community foundation structure gives us a modern tool to continue the legacy of giving and help our neighbors forever and ever. Be proud, keep strong and stay the course. Good things will happen.

—Scott Amundson, chairman of the  Langford Area Foundation, and Paula Jensen, one of the early organizers of the lCF


Ipswich Area Foundation

Started in: 2000, after members of the 1949 Ipswich Tigers football team brought forth the idea.

What would you say has been you biggest success story?

The biggest success that we’ve had so far is having money available to provide three $1,000 scholarships this year, in addition to the grants that we award.

Do you have any advice for another community that wants to start its own foundation?

If other communities are thinking of starting a foundation, I would tell them to be sure they have very active board members. Some board members are dedicated in the beginning, but then back off later on. Active people are needed to keep it alive.

—Deb Gillick, Ipswich Area Foundation treasurer


Faulkton Area Medical Foundation*

Supports the Faulkton Area Medical Center to purchase needed medical equipment for the facility.

Started in: The Foundation’s Predecessor had roots as far back as Feb. 1981 – the Faulk County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

Was it easy to get support, or did you struggle at times?

We had a lot of local help to get the foundation started. Many community leaders were involved. But as with anything worthwhile and new, it was said to be a challenge by those that started this journey. Their challenge paved the way to help provide funding for much of the new equipment and consequently many of the new programs that make us what we are today. I am proud to be part of it.

What kinds of fundraising strategies have you tried, and what has worked best?

I enjoy doing activities that involve different ages and generations. We all have something important to contribute to the success of an organization and finding avenues to pull those attributes out can sometimes be a challenge, but diligence pays off in the long run!

What would you say has been your biggest success story?

Last year ended the five-year capital campaign that was conducted by an outside up process, but was responsible for the follow-up and maintenance on the pledges and pledge payments. The community involvement and philanthropic support is outstanding for the size of our community. “Great things come in small packages!”

Do you have any advice for another community that wants to start its own foundation?

Share the mission story and purpose that is behind the driving force of the organization. The success of the Foundation can be measured in sustainability, while being balanced with how well we are doing in our mission of provide funding for requested equipment to assist FAMC to meet the needs of t ask for a more satisfying work environment.

—Kristen Lee, FAMC foundation coordinator

*The Faulkton Area Medical Foundation is not part of the South Dakota Community Foundation.

Total Contributions to Area Foundations to date, and Some Recent Projects they have Supported:

Aberdeen Community Foundation $35,910
Boys & Girls Club of Aberdeen $10,000
Aberdeen Family YMCA $10,000
WWII Pheasant Canteen Team $3,000
South Dakota 4-H Foundation $2,500

Day County Community Foundation $51,942
Webster Boy Scout Troop #33 $500
Webster Aquatic Venture for Excellence $17,247
Waubay School District $2,500

Britton Area Foundation $548,338
North Marshall Fire Department $15,000
Britton Baseball/Softball Association $5,000
Glacial Lakes Area Development $15,000
Northern Fort Playhouse $2,500

Langford Community Foundation $8,600
City of Langford $1,500
Dakota Kids 4-H Club $1,000
Claremont/Langford Teener Baseball $1,000

Eureka Community Foundation $5,645
Eureka Area Girl Scouts $500
Eureka Pioneer Museum $1,000
Eureka Community Development Co. $750

Ipswich Community Foundation $23,600
Ipswich Trail Days $500
Tiger Post (before- and after-school child care) $1,000
J.W. Parmley Historical Home Society $1,000

Clark Area Community Foundation $16,294
Clark County Historical Society $1,953
Clark Development Corporation $2,000
Willow Lake Community Wellness Center $1,000

Ellendale Area Community Foundation $592,836
Dickey County Fair Board (grandstand remodeling) $2,000
City of Ellendale, police security cameras, $1,000
Prince of Peace Care Center, therapy room renovation $1,000

Oakes Area Community Foundation $7,863
Save the Grand Project $1,363
Dickey County Historical Society, air conditioning $1,000
Kedish House, computer updates $1,000



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