The Value of the Unrestricted (Broadly Specific) Gift

Rande Richardson

“The great use of a life is to spend it for something that outlives it.” — William James, American philosopher 

I’m often asked what I see in trends in charitable giving. It has become evident over the past decade that the interest in unrestricted giving has been trending downward. Donors have been expressing their interest in being more directed in their support of their communities. 

    When the Community Foundation was incorporated 90 years ago it was done with the premise that making communities better belongs to everyone and that a donor in 1929 could not possibly fully anticipate the needs of the community nearly a century later. Their founding gifts were made with only one restriction —geography. Because of the foresight of these donors, their support has enabled: 

    ▪ Start-up grants to help establish Hospice of Jefferson County, North Country Children’s Clinic, Watertown Teen Center, Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund (Clayton Opera House), Volunteer Transportation Center, and the North Country Children’s Museum.  

    ▪ Transformational grants to advance the work of Watertown Family YMCA, Samaritan Medical Center, Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Thompson Park Conservancy, Lewis County General Hospital, Carthage Area Hospital, River Hospital, Gouverneur Hospital, Clifton-Fine Hospital, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, Thousand Islands Land Trust, Children’s Home of Jefferson County, Disabled Persons Action Organization, and Jefferson Rehabilitation Center. 

    ▪ Ongoing support of organizations such as the Orchestra of Northern New York, Jefferson Community College, Jefferson County Historical Society, Frederic Remington Art Museum, Thousand Islands Arts Center, SPCA of Jefferson County, and WPBS. Support is provided each year to food pantries, soup kitchens and school programs across the three counties. 

    Many of the grants have come at pivotal points in the evolution of these organizations when there might not have been other resources available. They would not have been possible without the trust of an unrestricted gift. They were enabled by the willingness of community-minded donors who saw an avenue to focus their generosity in the broadest way with the highest degree of impact. Unrestricted giving remains the cornerstone of the ability to respond with flexibility to emerging needs at times when they are most needed. 

    This type of giving requires a deeper level of trust between the donor and the organization. While it is easy to resist the notion of leaving a gift at the discretion of an organization’s board, unrestricted giving is critical to almost every nonprofit organization. Even if a donor is supporting a specific program, those programs cannot thrive without the underlying health and supporting structure unrestricted giving provides. Full commitment to an organization helps ensure its health so the things donors care about most can be ably implemented. 

    For those unable to overcome the thought of a totally unrestricted gift, some Community Foundation donors have taken a hybrid approach. “Broadly specific” giving has seen the number of donor-directed funds at the Foundation grow substantially. Many of these funds support certain fields-of-interest (education, health care, environment, children and youth, history, arts and culture, animal welfare). There has also been a trend toward geographic-specific giving. A donor can restrict the use of the gift to a certain city, town or village, or county. Recently, six separate charitable funds have been established at the Community Foundation to benefit St. Lawrence County, including specific provisions for Gouverneur, Canton, Massena, Potsdam and the CliftonFine region. These join other funds that focus on specific communities such as Lowville, Boonville, Constableville and Westernville, Clayton, Cape Vincent, Alexandria Bay and the Six Towns of Southern Jefferson County. Some of those geographic-specific funds also have directives within them for certain focus areas. 

    Many donors have created endowments to benefit multiple nonprofit organizations in perpetuity in the spirit of an unrestricted gift with the accountability of a directed gift. These funds also contain field of interest language in the event a specific organization ceases operation. This certainly proves the point and has helped provide middle ground. 

    Whether it is unrestricted giving or broadly specific giving there are mechanisms available to help ensure the gifts are good for both the donor and community and are enduring and relevant far into the future. 

    While causes may come and go, we need strong charitable organizations to be nimble enough to meet the changing needs of a region bolstered with undesignated gifts. They provide both the fuel for growth and the proper execution of specific programs, projects and endeavors. Knowing the variety of options to support the work of nonprofits and affect change ultimately helps ensure that whatever way you choose to see your values and interests perpetuated, there are a variety of options to better guarantee lasting energy and actions with stewardship both broadly and specifically. In this way, every gift goes further. 

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Dr. Walter Mineart, M.D., owner and physician at North Country Urgent Care opened his practice in 2003. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

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Danielle Parent, an MRI technologist at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, speaks with Violet Tiernan, of Potsdam, following her MRI on Thursday at the hospital. Photo by Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times.

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OUTLOOK 2016 / MILITARY: A soldier salutes during the presentation of the colors last year in an activation ceremony for the 10th Mountain Division Divarty. As the post avoided major cuts in 2015, Fort Drum officials remain positive that 2016 will be a healthy year for one of region’s top economic sectors. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

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Despite a few challenges, experts say the region is on pace for a positive year in 2016. Six sectors of the north country’s economy are ripe with opportunities for growth.

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Kammi Hernandez holds her 2-year old son,  Joseph, outside Gouverneur Hospital last month. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Business.

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Heavy turnout an encouraging sign to organizers of Jefferson-Lewis Job Fair

 

The bitter cold did not deter job-seekers from the Jefferson-Lewis Job Fair on Tuesday.

“This is, definitely, by far, the busiest I’ve seen,” said Carol L. Urbanowicz, human resources manager for Hi-Lite Markings Inc.

Prospective employees came in droves on a day when the temperature hovered just below zero.

Cheryl A. Mayforth, executive director of the Workplace, 1000 Coffeen St., said organizers were concerned the cold would keep people away from the free event.

“We were ballparking around 500 plus, but I think we’re going to surpass that,” Mrs. Mayforth said.

The job fair originally was scheduled for November but was postponed because of severe weather.

There were 58 employers at the fair, which was held at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1290 Arsenal St., including the Army National Guard, Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 2, Hi-Lite Markings, Jain Irrigation, Samaritan Medical Center and Gouverneur Hospital.

According to Mrs. Mayforth, there were more jobs being offered at the fair this year than in the previous three, a sign that the economy may be improving.

“Things are starting to open up,” she said.

Jefferson County posted a 7.5 percent unemployment rate in November, down from 8.8 percent the year before — a figure organizers of the job fair called encouraging — though some worried about discouraged workers who had given up looking for jobs during the recession.

“They say the unemployment figures are so low, but you see so many people here it makes you wonder who’s not being counted,” said Timothy J. Maloney, one-stop manager for the Workplace.

Mrs. Mayforth said the Workplace offers training programs to help people who have been out of a job for several years begin the process of re-entering the workforce.

“We have had people who come to us and say, ‘I’m lost.’ We’ll show you the way,” Mrs. Mayforth said.

Aside from the robust turnout and concern for discouraged workers, Mrs. Mayforth noted two other trends: the contraction of the workforce as baby-boomers near retirement age and the fact that younger “millennial” workers may not have gained skills in college that match the job market, especially when it comes to the medical field and trades such as plumbing or construction.

Suzan L. McDermott, director of human resources for Gouverneur Hospital, said there can often be a “disconnect” between the kind of education students pursue in college and the kind of education valued by the marketplace.

As an example, she cited a young woman with a bachelor’s degree in biology who came to a recent recruitment event. While the woman had relevant experience, she needed to be certified as a medical technician or technologist, a field that is projected to grow by 22 percent from now to 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To become a medical technician generally requires an associate degree; to become a technologist requires a bachelor’s degree, according to BLS.

Ms. McDermott said the woman was working toward her certification.

Dale R. Stehlin, field representative for Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 2, mentioned “Helmets to Hardhats,” a national nonprofit program that helps military service members transition to careers in the trades as a viable option for those completing their service at nearby Fort Drum.

Gary A. Seery, 64, of Watertown, spent his career in construction and came to the job fair to find work during the years remaining before he can retire.

“It’s very hard because you get to my age, youth is coming in, and they should,” Mr. Seery said. “But you need that last two years to get over that hump to Social Security. So a lot of us here are probably looking for that.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Daniel P. Smith, 24, also of Watertown, was trying to find his first serious job after working in construction and on area farms since graduating from Watertown High School in 2009.

“I’m looking for something with benefits,” he said, his large hands and broad shoulders clear evidence of his experience with manual work.

Mr. Smith said he was especially interested in Hi-Lite Markings, a company that paints airport and parking lot striping around the world.

“Hi-Lite gives everybody a chance,” said, Ms. Urbanowicz, human resources manager for the company.

Crews from Hi-Lite, which is looking to hire eight to 10 people this season, are often out for four to six weeks at a time, Ms. Urbanowicz said.

“For a crew, I look for somebody really determined to work, who can travel,” she said.

 

 

By Daniel Flatley, Times Staff Writer