“Fundraising is a three-legged stool between annual campaigns, capital campaigns, and endowment building,” remarked Tom Blaze, President & CEO of the Oshkosh YMCA, as he pondered the importance of endowments. “Of those three, the endowment building gets the least attention, almost as an afterthought, but just like the other two legs it’s vital to keeping an organization upright.”
“Endowments are a permanent fund. They are a source of income that will help us tend to projects that would otherwise be difficult to find funding for,” said Tom. “For example, there was a year when we needed to replace the indoor soccer arena turf at the 20th Ave. YMCA for over one hundred thousand dollars. Thanks to the endowment we were able to fill this need without having to campaign for it.”
Endowment development is easy to put on the back burner because there can be more pressing things that come up, but endowments are crucial to the future of the YMCA. While Tom is grateful to be leading the organization with its current endowment, noting that many organizations don’t have any at all to speak of, he has his sights set on growing their endowment threefold over course of the next decade.
“I think most people understand the importance of endowments. In many cases the donors simply don’t know that we need it. Bricks and mortar and other tangible things are relatively easy to raise funds for. People like to literally see what their dollars are going toward shortly after they are given. Endowment building takes much more foresight.” Tom continued, “ I’ve learned throughout my career that people want to give – they just need to be approached and guided toward that decision. The YMCA is a member organization. Just because many of our members give to our annual campaign doesn’t necessarily mean they’re planning ahead to give to a long-term endowment, or consider us in a bequest. Those decisions come about through years of relationship building, and I think that’s something that we do well.”
Where individual capacity and passion meet, endowments are born. This is what supports the long-term sustainability of an organization, and what allows us to impact our community. For good. For ever.