Donor Advised Funds Make Planned Giving Easy

 Every donor makes a difference. That understanding underscores each and every relationship staff and philanthropic individuals have together at the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation. It’s also a mindset that has helped establish the Foundation’s reputation as an effective, well-regarded Donor Advised Fund provider.

Donor Advised Funds allow individuals, families or organizations to direct financial distributions to charitable, cultural or education programs of their choosing.

“You feel like you have someone in your corner with the Foundation,” says Lynn Anderson, who has held a Donor Advised Fund with the Foundation for five years. She says her decision to start a fund with the Foundation has helped her focus the scope of her giving, adding that the consistent, ongoing support and personal attention provided by the Foundation’s philanthropic advisors enable her to remain engaged with the causes that matter to her.

“Charitable giving is a complicated endeavor. It requires a lot of research because you have to sift past all the public relations stuff that goes out,” she says. “You have to find out: underneath it all, is an organization doing good things with their money?”

Scott Anderson (no relation to Lynn) agrees. When he began to plan for retirement several years ago, Scott knew he wanted to establish a commitment to sustained, long-term charitable giving. His financial advisor recommended the Foundation, and he liked what he encountered when he reached out with questions. He appreciated the Foundation’s assistance in clarifying his philanthropic objectives and interests, as well as their support when it came to researching organizations and the “next step” advice that came without any deadlines attached.

“They know what they’re doing,” says Scott, whose career included extensive travel and multiple periods of living abroad – experiences that gave shape to his fund’s goals. “It’s helped me stay more organized and disciplined about giving.”

While each donor’s timeline is unique, the process involves a series of steps to which Foundation staff pay close attention. Potential donors are encouraged to first talk with a Foundation advisor to discuss their goals in establishing a Donor Advised Fund. Follow-up conversations clarify the focus, extent and timeline of giving. For those who decide to establish a Donor Advised Fund, the Foundation team then takes steps to: 

  • suggest organizations, initiatives and causes that are a good fit for each donor
  • conduct research and due diligence to simplify the complexities of the donor’s giving
  • work with the donor’s advisors (financial and otherwise) to grow funds and reap tax benefits
  • continue to offer expertise and information to maintain flexibility in the donor’s giving choices
  • preserve the donor’s wishes in perpetuity

“I started out small,” Lynn Anderson says. “It doesn’t matter how much you have – if charitable giving is important to you, talking with the Foundation is the way to go.”

Rhea Yap, senior philanthropic advisor at the Foundation, says the ability to respect a donor’s parameters is just one of Foundation’s strengths.

“We’re always examining our community needs, and researching on an ongoing basis,” she explains. “We are aware to opportunities for impact because of our working relationships with a variety of entities – local government, business, and social impact organizations – and we cross that with donors’ passions and interests.”

Scott Anderson reflects on the steps he’s taken thus far on his journey to establish a legacy of charitable giving.

“It’s been a kind of evolution. Start out slowly when you do this. Find a good organization. Gain trust, share information, keep building. Build a strategy. Build an action plan. And then go for it.”

To schedule a conversation about establishing a Donor Advised Fund with the Oak Park-River Forest Foundation, contact Rhea Yap at ryap@oprfcf.org or 708-848-1560. We look forward to speaking with you.

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