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Charitable foundations don't compete with United Way

August 11, 2003|HERB BROCK

Richard Trollinger's job title is vice president of college relations at Centre College. But his resume also could list the unofficial title of expert on community charitable foundations.

Trollinger might scoff at being considered an expert on the topic, but he qualifies for some claim to prominence in the field since he was enrolled in a special master's degree program in philanthropy and did a paper on community charitable foundations. And, coincidentally, at the same time Trollinger headed a Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce committee charged with studying the idea of establishing a local foundation.

In his role as student, Trollinger completed the course in philanthropy. In his role as head of the chamber committee, he completed the study. Both results were positive. He was able to help in the establishment of the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation, a locally-directed affiliate of the Community Foundation of Louisville, and knows better than most how the foundation works and the history behind it.

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"I would not say I'm the final word on charitable foundations, but I will say that it was an interesting coincidence that the possibility of our establishing a foundation in Danville arose at the same time I was studying such foundations in a master's program at Indiana University in Indianapolis," Trollinger said.

Trollinger didn't just learn a bunch of facts from his philanthropy studies. He also learned the historic ties between the development of community foundations and United Way organizations and the similarities and differences between the two. They share common histories, purposes and leadership. He noted that a lot of people are confused about the roles of the two charitable entities and see them as competitors.

"In the 1800s businessmen in Philadelphia realized there were 33 different charitable organizations in the city and considered the idea of establishing a federated campaign to fund these organizations," said Trollinger.

"It wasn't until 1913 when the first federated campaign was established, and it was in Cleveland, and that federated campaign became the forerunner of the United Way campaigns and organizations of later years," he said. "Interestingly, it was a year later, in 1914, when the first community foundation was established in the same city."

There are similarities and distinct differences

While there are marked similarities in purposes and histories, Trollinger said there are distinct differences - differences, he said, significant enough to make the two entities coexist rather than compete.

"It was an early concern of those establishing community charitable foundations whether these foundations would compete with the federated campaigns, which later became United Way campaigns," said Trollinger. Many of those involved with starting the foundations also were involved in starting the federated campaigns. They were relieved to discover that one did not compete with the other, that both could flourish."

In fact, they and their leaders can and do work together, he said. For example, Janie Pass, executive director of Heart of Kentucky United Way in Danville, serves on the board of the Wilderness Trace foundation. In addition, Heart of Kentucky's board endorsed the establishment of the Wilderness Trace foundation.

Perhaps because the founders of community foundations and United Way organizations were often the same people - like they are today, as Pass's double roles reflect - they could make sure, through defining the respective goals and rules, there were differences, so that each organization could have a separate, albeit somewhat similar, mission, he said.

"And there are substantial differences," he said. "The major difference is that United Way organizations exist to conduct one fund-raising effort each year to provide support for social-service organizations, whereas community foundations are not annual fund-raising mechanisms but vehicles through which permanent endowments are established.

"Now, these endowments will provide support for community organizations and projects, including some that also may be funded by the United Way, but the point is that there are different mechanisms. When a community foundation trust provides money to the same organization that also receives funds from the United Way, you could say the donations represent different means to the same end."

In addition, community foundations are "more donor-focused," said Trollinger. "A United Way's customers are the agencies it serves. A foundation's clients are the donors it serves. A board directs the United Way's donations, whereas a donor directs his or her own.

"A person who gives to the United Way will see his or her money benefit various community organizations, and that's a wonderful thing. But a person who creates a trust with a foundation can see the donations go to the specific organization or cause he or she really cares about, and know that the donations will keep flowing long after death."

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