Case study
July 28, 2016

Combined Endowment and Planned-Giving Campaign Is a Hit With Donors

To celebrate its centennial year, the Minneapolis Foundation found an innovative way to tie the city’s philanthropic past, present, and future together.

The Pay It Forward Forever Fund, launched in June 2015, is a hybrid of an endowment drive and a planned-giving push. And donors have embraced it with enthusiasm, says Beth Halloran, the community foundation’s vice president for advancement.

The foundation is aiming to recruit 100 individuals, families, and businesses to give $25,000 each to a fund that will be invested and not used for 50 years. Nearly a year into the effort, Ms. Halloran said, the organization had 70 donors on board. About 24 percent of those contributors, she says, are new supporters.

Over the decades, the $2.5 million the initial 100 donors give to the Pay It Forward Forever Fund is likely to grow to roughly $29 million. In 2065, the foundation will spend 80 percent of those funds on the community. Twenty percent will stay in the fund, for the next 50 years, repeating the cycle in perpetuity.

The result, says Sarah Lemagie, the foundation’s communications officer, is a “philanthropic time capsule,” allowing donors to “leave a legacy for the future.”

Contributors to the fund have taken the legacy theme to heart. “Some people are talking about multiples, naming their contributions for each of their kids or grandkids,” says Ms. Halloran.

Spreading the Word

A decisive factor in the success of the Pay It Forward Forever Fund, says Ms. Halloran, has been having the full support of the organization’s Board of Trustees from the beginning. 

“They have been great cheerleaders for this,” she says. “A number of them have joined this effort and have solicited for us. And I think that’s key, because it shows that the leadership of the community is engaged in this, and engaged in the future health of the city.”

The fund got a boost in interest from donors after a September article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, she says. But for the most part, the organization has promoted the fund one-on-one with its most generous supporters, through its donor newsletter, and with the help of civic leaders who have spread the word. 

In conversations with potential donors, Ms. Halloran says, she takes pains to highlight the ways in which current needs do not necessarily reflect future ones, and the importance of preparing an endowment to contend with new challenges.

For example, she asks supporters to imagine if the Pay It Forward Forever Fund had existed in previous 50-year time spans. She describes how generous donors were in the Minneapolis of the 1930s. But such philanthropists “would not have thought to anticipate the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, and set money aside for that issue,” she points out.

“What we’re saying with this program is that while we can’t name what our issues and opportunities might be in 2065, we’re fairly certain people will have needs, and will be grateful to today’s Minneapolitans for being generous and thinking of them.”

The Minneapolis Foundation is also taking other steps to ensure that future needs are met. In response to demand from donors, says Ms. Halloran, last November the foundation launched a program aimed at helping people educate themselves and their family members about philanthropy, including information about planned giving. 

Six months in, the Family Philanthropy Resource Center appears to be a hit, says Ms. Halloran, bringing new supporters to the foundation, and spotlighting an underserved need: “There’s a real hunger for families to work multigenerationally.”

Send an email to Heather Joslyn.