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Community Foundation sees record giving in 2020 as more people step up to meet critical needs


The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines received $86.6 million in charitable giving in 2020, a record amount that helped it provide more than $70.1 million in grants to nonprofit organizations in Central Iowa.

That level of giving — an $8 million increase from 2019 — was heartening to see, particularly because of the tough year so many people had in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, said Kristi Knous, foundation president.

“I think it gives great hope, not just for recovery but resiliency of the wonderful community we live in,” she said. “It brings a bright light to the end of this tunnel for our nonprofit sector as well, to know our generous donors really did step up in such a meaningful way. We can only hope we can continue to inspire that sort of giving in 2021 and beyond as we look to meet the needs of the community and the gaps we’re seeing now.”

Ed McGill, co-founder and partner of McGill Junge Wealth Management in Urbandale, said that at a time when it would be easy for people to pull back because of health and economic concerns, it was important to give back even more.

“I think there was just a general sense of how do we step up even more,” he said. “I think the people that were fortunate wanted to step up and say, ‘Now is even an even greater time to be giving.’”

McGill said he saw that attitude not only among his clients, but also within his own company.

That led McGill Junge to create a Charity Challenge on its LinkedIn page.

“We started featuring different charities and telling their stories. And by putting that out, we had clients who would give, we’d have friends and peers of our firms across the country give, so we were able to raise $200,000 this year,” McGill said.

That also led a number of the firm’s clients to set up accounts with the Community Foundation, he said.

McGill said the increased level of giving wasn’t only seen at large organizations that are traditional donors, but also from individual donors.

“You not only had the business owners or executives, but a lot of the ones who are working hard every day that are doing the $25 a paycheck or $50, they increased that or just kept it going,” he said. “It wasn’t just the business owners and business leaders, I think it was Central Iowa as whole.”

Knous agreed with McGill, saying donations were received not only from those who had previously given, but also from new donors.

“I think this year gave a lot of opportunity for thought and reflection, and that perhaps is why we saw that increase as well,” she said.

Some of the increase was seen through the activation of the foundation’s Disaster Recovery Fund, which raised more than $1 million to support those most affected by the pandemic. Another area of growth was through the GIVEdsm website, where both page views and clicks on Give Now more than doubled in 2020 from 2019. In 2019 the site registered 5,002 page views and 417 clicks on Give Now. In 2020, those numbers increased to 10,363 page views and 885 clicks on Give Now.

Tray Wade, president and CEO of EveryStep in Des Moines, said the support from the community in 2020 was “huge” for his organization and the 30 programs it provides.

“It went from keeping some of our programs functioning and keeping people on our payroll to allowing us to really enhance our services and help the community in new ways because of the pandemic,” he said.

He said in return for the community’s support, nonprofits need to be nimble and adapt to the community’s needs.

“It’s a partnership,” Wade said. “If the community is going to be so generous to us, then we’re going to have to continue to be willing to pivot and really meet what the community needs.”

Despite the successes in 2020, Knous acknowledges, “our work is far from done.”

She said keeping donors connected to what’s going on in the community will be important moving into 2021, as will nonprofits continuing to tell their stories of impact and collaboration.

“It’s been so inspiring to see nonprofit organizations come together over the past year in all kinds of ways, really innovative ways,” she said. “Sometimes they were sharing staff. Sometimes they were developing programs because they were serving the same audiences and really came together to be more cohesive. That was something that played well for this community.”

That work has to continue in 2021, and Knous said the community also needs to continue to invest in itself.

That will help advance the community, “and I think philanthropy will most definitely follow,” she said.

McGill said nonprofits will have to continue reinventing and innovating in 2021 if they want to stay engaged with donors.

“They will have to continue to rethink how they market themselves, how they do business, how are they connecting and what added value do they bring, how do they keep themselves in front of donors,” he said. “It’s just making sure they’re keeping their message out there.”

Key takeaways from the Community Foundation’s 2020 report:

  • The Community Foundation’s assets under administration grew to over $738 million as of December 31, 2020.
  • 110 new charitable giving funds were established with the Community Foundation for a total of 2,148 funds under administration.
  • The Community Foundation pivoted grant-making, made possible through support of the Better Together Fund.
  • 432 people attended DonorConnect events to learn about community needs and opportunities. This included the Conversations that Count series focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion in Greater Des Moines.
  • Facilitated trainings and conversations were held for over 2,800 nonprofit staff and board members.
  • The Community Foundation served 30 nonprofit accounting service clients in 2020.

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