Guest Opinions

Donor Advised Funds are gifts that keep giving, change lives in Idaho

Karen Bilowith
Karen Bilowith

In 2000, the estate of Gladys Langroise created a $15 million Donor Advised Fund in the Idaho Community Foundation. Mrs. Langroise was a well-educated philanthropist with a big heart. She had a particular charitable interest in the arts and young people.

Since it was created, Mrs. Langroise’s fund has distributed more than $10 million to colleges, music programs, community art centers, schools and nonprofits that assist low-income children throughout Idaho. And there’s still more than $15 million left in the fund. That is the power of endowment and it’s also a powerful reminder of the good that is accomplished every single day with Donor Advised Funds.

On the national stage, Donor Advised Funds have recently been viewed in a negative light because of some high-profile examples that have caused people concern — concern that is shared by the staff and Board of Directors of the Idaho Community Foundation.

The Idaho Community Foundation completely agrees that Donor Advised funds — and all charitable funds — should be created to further the philanthropic intentions of people who want to benefit communities and organizations. We have processes in place to ensure that our Donor Advised Funds are distributing grants on a regular basis and that at least 51 percent of distributions benefit Idaho communities.

We hope the high-profile examples outside of Idaho don’t overshadow the incredible good that is accomplished by Donor Advised Funds like the one Mrs. Langroise created, and the other 200 Donor Advised Funds in the Idaho Community Foundation.

Donor Advised Funds allow donors to create a charitable fund that is invested for the long- or short-term, depending on their style of giving. Long-term endowed funds, like the Langroise Fund, literally last forever and eventually give more in grants than the amount with which they were created.

The Ethel R. and Ronald Rawlinson Fund in the Idaho Community Foundation is a Donor Advised Fund that was established in 1992 to benefit charitable organizations in Gem County. Ronald Rawlinson was a family practice doctor in Emmett and his wife Ethel was his nurse. They were devoted to their community and were involved in many organizations during their lifetimes.

The Rawlinson fund was established with $560,000 and has distributed more than $890,000 in grants — far more than the amount with which it was established. And the fund still has more than $950,000 in it. Hundreds of nonprofits in Emmett and other Gem County towns have received grants from the Rawlinson Fund, exactly as the couple intended.

And Donor Advised Funds are only one of the types of charitable funds offered by the Idaho Community Foundation and other community foundations throughout the country. At ICF, we have many types of funds that further the donor’s intent while at the same time addressing changing needs in our communities.

The Idaho Community Foundation is proud of the contributions we’ve made to communities of all sizes in our 30-year history. We’ve distributed nearly $114 million and our grant making reaches all 44 Idaho counties.

We hope that the actions by a small number of donors outside of Idaho don’t discourage people who genuinely want to enrich the quality of life in our state from considering a Donor Advised Fund.

Karen Bilowith is president and CEO of Idaho Community Foundation.