Sara Judson column: What you do for yourself dies with you; what you do for others lives forever

Published 12:59 pm Thursday, May 2, 2024

Autism Awareness Month has been celebrated in a variety of ways during April and on this last day of the month I’m sharing one more – how endowments support this cause in Southwest Louisiana.  Our region is fortunate to have quality nonprofits that support services for people with autism including Autism Services of Southwest Louisiana and St. Nicholas Center for Children.  We are also fortunate that each of those have Endowment Funds with the Community Foundation which, with growth over time, will provide financial support to carry out these missions…forever.

An endowment is a fund that is invested to provide long-term support for a particular nonprofit organization or cause in perpetuity (forever!).  A portion of the fund is made available, usually annually, while the remaining assets continue to be invested in the fund to provide for growth over time.  For nonprofits, an endowment can create a stable annual income stream, alleviating some of the pressure of inconsistent funding.  A healthy nonprofit endowment can help attract potential donors by signaling the organization’s trustworthiness and its focus on long-term financial stability.

Autism Services is a good example.  Their mission is to build a culture that embraces adults on the autism spectrum, includes them in every facet of local daily life and offers them opportunities to make meaningful contributions to our community.  A primary way they achieve their mission is by providing homes in our community where several adults on the autism spectrum live life to their fullest with the help of a dedicated staff of care givers.

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“We make a commitment to parents that we will take care of their loved one for the rest of their lives. Having an Endowment Fund with the Community Foundation helps us know we will have income in the future to keep this promise to all our parents,” shared Geri Christ Landry, one of the founding members former Executive Director of Autism Services.  The Board of Autism Services, which included several of its founding members, created this Endowment Fund with a vision to provide an income stream for future Boards and staff leadership to have the dollars needed to ensure their mission is provided for generations to come.  “With so much community support we are fortunate to be well on our way to building a secure future for adults on the autism spectrum.”

“Endowments really do give people the opportunity to support causes that matters to them…forever,” said local philanthropist Tom Shearman.  “With the principal invested it just keeps growing year after year.  The power of compounding interest is just incredible and can benefit whatever causes someone wants to support – including these nonprofits with a focus on helping children and adults with autism.”

Another good example is the St. Nicholas Center for Children.  Their mission is transforming the lives of children with Autism, delays, and disorders by providing therapy and family support.  These services are provided without government financial help for program support so gifts to St. Nicholas Center for Children help offer scholarships and grants to families whose insurance does not cover all of the needed therapies for their children.  It also helps provide specialized equipment to meet the needs of children with disabilities.  “One thing we have learned these past few years is that during a crisis, funding can be inconsistent.  Having an endowment creates a stable annual income stream that can help us with our focus on long-term financial stability,” shared founder and Executive Director, Christy Papania-Jones.  “We appreciate the trust we have been given to complete the mission of providing these essential services.” 

For nonprofits, I encourage you to think of this as a plan for the future.  It’s about having the foresight to let your money work for you, while you continue to work for the community.  Who might be a donor to an endowment?  Anyone!  Have a cause important to you?  You can donate any amount to an endowment that is already created, or begin an Endowment Fund yourself to support one or more nonprofits or causes important to you.  This is a great example of what we do at the Community Foundation Southwest Louisiana where we connect people who care with causes that matter.

Sara McLeod Judson is the CEO of the Community Foundation SWLA. She can be reached at 337-491-6688 or For more information, visit