Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana helps connect donors with nonprofits

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana offers a “charitable checking account” that caters to the personal passions of

donors who want to have a positive effect on the region.

“There is no other organization where a donor can make a donation, receive the tax deduction when they need it and decide

later what nonprofits they would like to support,” said Lisa Verrette, foundation president and CEO.

There are more than 700 community foundations nationwide and seven in Louisiana. The group works with specific donors, whereas

United Way works with nonprofit groups.

Donations can include cash, property,

life insurance, stock, or an entire company or estate. The foundation

will assist donors

in the allocation of the funds for unique purposes. “We help

connect donors with nonprofits,” Verrette said. “We try to help

donors leave lasting legacies.”

The foundation focuses on honoring donors’ intentions even after their death, she said.

The group started as a United Way advisory committee and remained under the United Way umbrella until 2005 when it became

its own entity. With the help of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the local group hopes to become self-sufficient by 2015.

“We need the support of our community to bring it to the level that it can be,” she said.

The local foundation has grown significantly since 2008. Now, it has about $7.5 million in assets under management and houses

32 funds. To date, it has awarded more than $7 million in grants.

The foundation offers donors five types

of funds. The first, “donor advised or corporate funds,” is the most

popular. Donors

deposit money, and the foundation invests it so the donation can

last. Donors may recommend grants or projects to be supported

through the money.

The second, “unrestricted funds,” contains donations that are not directed to a specific cause and are available for general

distribution by the foundation.

The third is “field of interest funds,” which are established through donors’ specific interests. For example, the city of

Lake Charles set up a Millennium Park fund to rebuild the park after it burned down. The foundation handled every donation

and paid the invoices for the park’s restoration through the fund.

“Designated beneficiary funds” are directed by donors to a specific agency or project. The last fund is the “scholarship fund,”

which solely assists the education of students.

In addition, the Community Foundation wishes to continue to pursue civic initiatives that “can change the arc of the region,”

Verrette said. Donations went toward funding commercials that promote civility in day-to-day life.

In 2011, the organization launched its award-winning Regional Report publication, which measures the quality of life across

Southwest Louisiana. Verrette said the goal of the report is to “measure progress and inspire action.”

“With each publication, we will have a

better understanding of where we are, how far we have come and where we

need to go,”

Verrette said. “We want to pursue additional civic initiatives,

but we want the community to let us know what they think is

important.”

The foundation welcomes feedback from the community, and the opportunity to convene interested parties or stakeholders in

projects that can benefit the region, she said.

“The Community Foundation is all about philanthropy and being creative with your giving,” Verrette said. “We want people to

be engaged in their giving while they’re living and enjoy seeing what they’re doing. It’s all about giving from the heart,

which is our most powerful engine for action.”

For more information on the group, contact Verrette at 491-6688 or lverrette@FoundationSWLA.org.