Endowing the Future


Students take part in Fractal Camp, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) program.

If a new state tax credit is approved, charitable donors could soon see a financial return on their generosity. The Wisconsin Philanthropy  Network is spearheading Endow Wisconsin, an initiative designed  to enhance  individual and corporate support at each of Wisconsin’s 19 nationally accredited community foundations, including  Madison Community Foundation, which serves Dane County and communities  throughout the region.

Proposed in the state budget as a new tax credit, Endow Wisconsin encourages donors to keep  dollars in Wisconsin by providing a valuable  incentive for Wisconsinites to share a portion of their hard-earned assets with their hometown communities.  Adoption of the tax credit has the potential to raise significant dollars for use in Wisconsin while requiring  only a modest investment from the state.

If the Endow Wisconsin tax credit is approved, it is anticipated  that Wisconsin individuals and corporations who make a contribution to an accredited  community foundation in 2018 can claim the tax credit when they file their 2018 taxes.

“Generous people  who live in Wisconsin will have the opportunity through the tax credit to donate to an endowment  at a certified community foundation,  receive  a 25% tax credit on their Wisconsin taxes for their gift, and have the satisfaction of knowing  their gift supports important causes  and organizations that make our communities great,” says Jill Van Calster, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Philanthropy Network.

According to Van Calster, if the state approves the proposed $3 million investment in Endow Wisconsin, it will result in $12 million being contributed to Wisconsin accredited community foundations. The actual impact to each of the 19 accredited  statewide  foundations will vary.

Why does Wisconsin need to incentivize its residents to give? The snowbird effect is real: Demographic shifts can result in assets being channeled  to other states rather than used to strengthen Wisconsin hometowns  and neighborhoods. According to “Wealth in Wisconsin,” a transfer of wealth study, approximately $687 billion is projected to pass from one generation of Wisconsinites to the next. Keeping a portion of this wealth in Wisconsin through a tax credit incentive presents a unique opportunity  to grow assets that will enhance  communities.

“Wisconsin’s community foundations are one of our state’s best-kept secrets,” says Bob Sorge, president of the Madison Community Foundation.

Madison Community Foundation stands to benefit from Endow Wisconsin tax credits, and so do local causes it supports. Mirrored after the success of similar programs in other states — most notably Iowa— Endow Wisconsin has the opportunity to strengthen the nonprofits in Wisconsin communities. Since its inception  in 2003, the Endow Iowa tax credit has leveraged  nearly $192 million in support of its statewide  nonprofits through contributions made to permanent  endowments  at their community foundations.

Other successfully  endowed  states include North Dakota and Kentucky, while  legislation has been proposed in other Midwestern states including Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

Endowments fuel jobs, housing, food systems, cultural centers, youth programs, and a myriad of essential  services that strengthen Wisconsin communities.

“Philanthropy is a great thing,” states Van Calster, “but philanthropy  that pays the donor back is even better.”

Jason Busch, from the April 2017 edition of Greater Madison In Business