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FAQs

What is the Catholic Foundation of West Michigan?

The Catholic Foundation is a charitable foundation established to serve the Catholic community by promoting Christian philanthropy. As a community foundation, the Catholic Foundation offers donors highly effective investment vehicles for their charitable resources, the finest professional stewardship of those funds, optimal tax benefits, and a program of generous and responsible giving to the community that creates meaningful and lasting legacies.

What is the Foundation’s relationship with the Diocese of Grand Rapids?

The Catholic Foundation is an independent entity, with its own 501(c)(3) designation, by-laws, trustees, and staff professionals. It functions, however, as an integral part of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, indeed of the entire Catholic community, having been established by a small group of Catholic leaders in 1995 to create an endowment fund upon which the Diocese of Grand Rapids could depend to generate the additional resources needed to serve its people, parishes, schools, and social service agencies. The Bishop is a member of the Board of Trustees. 

Why would I give through the Catholic Foundation instead of directly to a charity?

The Catholic Foundation encourages charitable giving – and there are many Catholic organizations that need funds right now. Our donors are often able to give to an organization today while growing funds to support that organization’s work in perpetuity. The Foundation offers comprehensive charitable giving, with a variety of services that continue current donations to your parish, Catholic school, and favorite charities.

What are the benefits of working with the Catholic Foundation of West Michigan?

The Catholic Foundation offers many benefits for donors: investing consistent with one’s faith; the convenience of using a single source to give to numerous charities; expert assistance and advice tailored to donor needs and interests; and tax advantages. The Foundation helps donors provide more support for those in need than they might have thought possible by increasing the impact of their charitable giving. With the Catholic Foundation, donors know that their gifts will benefit, in perpetuity, the causes that are most important to them and that their funds will always be invested according to Catholic principles of investing.

Does the Foundation displace my lawyer and professional advisor?

Not at all. The Catholic Foundation does not provide legal, tax, or financial planning advice. The Catholic Foundation works closely with all professional advisors to create only the charitable giving component of your financial and estate planning. With their knowledge and insight, we can develop a plan that it is consistent with your overall personal, financial and spiritual goals, both currently and well into the future.

Is the Catholic Foundation mostly for wealthy donors?

No. The Catholic Foundation hopes everyone in the Catholic community will participate in the spirit of charitable giving and realize the effectiveness and efficiencies of this trusted community foundation. Gifts of any size are welcome, and indeed, essential to the Foundation’s mission.

What’s the difference between the Catholic Foundation of West Michigan and Catholic Charities West Michigan?

The Catholic Foundation collects, grows and distributes funds on behalf of our donors. Through the generosity of donors, our funds help to sustain the programs provided by Catholic Charities and many other nonprofit organizations. We provide targeted financial support that enables those organizations to serve the spiritual, educational and social needs of the community in perpetuity.

What if I have a family foundation already?

Private foundations and community foundations like the Catholic Foundation are not mutually exclusive; they may serve similar, although not identical purposes. But community foundations like the Catholic Foundation often afford greater tax advantages and distribution flexibility, and they assume the otherwise costly and time-consuming record-keeping and reporting responsibilities associated with private foundations. In addition, the Catholic Foundation brings a unique philanthropic focus to bear, thus providing donors with a way to build a particularly rich legacy in the Catholic community. The Catholic Foundation welcomes the opportunity to work with you, your family, and your legal and financial advisors, and to provide any of our distribution, reporting, and grant-making services either via a grant from your private foundation that establishes a philanthropic fund at the Catholic Foundation, or via conversion of your private foundation into a fund or support organization of the Catholic Foundation.

What is the difference between a donor advised fund and an endowment?

An endowment fund provides a source of annual income to a Catholic organization or cause of your choice. The endowment is designed to function in perpetuity, making it possible for you to ensure long-term financial support to your chosen cause. A donor advised fund offers a hands-on approach to philanthropy.  The fund invests your charitable gift to grow tax-free for future giving. With a donor advised fund, you advise which organizations you would like to be grant recipients.

Can grants be made to individuals?

No. Only 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible.

Can I request grants payable over more than one year?

Yes. The Foundation can honor a request that the distribution be made in increments in the amounts and at the times you specify.

Can I use the resources of my donor advised fund to pay off a multi-year pledge to an organization’s capital campaign?

No. The Catholic Foundation cannot make grants to satisfy pledges you have made to any charity. This is because, in accordance with the IRS, when you make a contribution to a Donor Advised Fund at the Catholic Foundation you are entitled to take the full amount as a tax deduction, as you have received nothing material in return for your investment. If, however, the Foundation satisfies your pledge, you will be receiving something in return for your contribution – release from an obligation. The Foundation can make grants of certain amounts over a number of years, but not in fulfillment of any pledge or other obligation. If you have a donor advised fund, you should not sign a pledge card without first discussing your charitable commitment and wishes with a Foundation professional.

What other kinds of charitable gifts cannot be distributed by the Foundation from a donor advised fund?

Membership fees and dues, and tickets for seats or tables at charitable events are precluded from payment by the Foundation, as are contributions to political campaigns and lobbyists.

Do I get credit for grants I recommend from my fund(s) at the Foundation?

When The Catholic Foundation makes a distribution, the recipient is notified that the grant has been made from your specific fund through the Catholic Foundation. Acknowledgements are generally sent both to the Foundation and to you – to let you know that a gift was received and appreciated. The tax receipt, however, will be sent only to the Foundation, as you are not entitled to any further tax deductions, having realized the tax benefits when you established or contributed to your fund at the Foundation.

Is it possible for grants from the Foundation to be made anonymously?

Yes. Many Catholic Foundation donors choose anonymity. Simply request that neither the name of the donor nor the name of the fund be released.

Can my children participate as advisors to the fund(s) I have established?

Yes. When you establish your fund, you will name the advisors – usually your self and your spouse, and if you choose, your adult children. Many donors find their donor advised funds to be helpful tools for teaching philanthropy to their children. You can also stipulate that your children serve as advisors to the fund after your death, so as to retain your family’s participation for an additional generation.

What happens to the fund(s) when I die?

You can stipulate that your children or other successors serve as advisors to the fund following your death and throughout their lifetimes. At their deaths, the fund will become an endowment – either a permanent endowment in your family name (“The Smith Family Endowment Fund of The Catholic Foundation”) or as part of The Catholic Foundation’s Unrestricted Endowment Fund. The proceeds generated will be distributed by the Foundation in perpetuity and, to the extent possible, in accordance with your original charitable vision, i.e., if you have demonstrated a particular interest in funding Catholic schools or your parish, the Foundation will honor that intention.

How will the money in my fund(s) be invested?

The Catholic Foundation is committed to prudent investment strategies that align with Catholic teachings that our trustees believe will lead to the optimal use of your fund(s) in the charitable community. We work with professional investment advisors to achieve a competitive return consistent with board policies regarding risk and return. Detailed reports of donor funds are mailed semi-annually.  

How much control will I have over any charitable fund(s) I establish at the Foundation?

Legally, once you have made a contribution to the Catholic Foundation to establish a fund, you have given control for all decision-making regarding the investment and distribution of those funds to the Foundation. At the same time, however, the Foundation makes a commitment to honor your personal philanthropic intention throughout your lifetime and, should you choose, in perpetuity. Your vision, then, informs every decision our trustees make. We elicit that information at the time we establish the fund(s), and we encourage on-going communication between all donors and the Foundation so that we can help you to realize your unique charitable vision. Donors “advise” the Foundation when they make recommendations for grants to different organizations and institutions; and the Foundation makes every effort to honor that advice in its decision-making.

What is the tax ID number for the Catholic Foundation of West Michigan?

Legal Name: Catholic Foundation of West Michigan

Federal Tax ID Number: 38-3298981

How can I learn more about working with the Catholic Foundation?

The staff at the Catholic Foundation of West Michigan is ready to help answer any additional questions and work with you on your charitable goals. Contact us to start the conversation.

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