What Is the Custer County Foundation?

By Executive Director Lindsay Divan

I absolutely love it when people ask me what exactly is the Custer County Foundation.  I love this question for a couple reasons.  First of all, the Foundation is probably one of my favorite topics and any opportunity to talk about it is exciting–especially when someone else brings it up.  (Actually, I’m sure some people regret asking me this question as I tend to get a little long-winded!)  Secondly, it gives me the opportunity to educate someone interested in learning more about the Foundation and to answer any questions.  Community foundations are kind of a beast (for lack of better word) in the fact that they offer many different services and giving opportunities.  This is why so many people do not really understand foundations.  I, too, was one of those people until I got involved with a foundation in another community.  Many people will tell you the Foundation is like a savings account for Custer County.  There is truth to this; however, we are so much more than a savings account.  Let me go into some of the services the Custer County Foundation offers.  

To begin, let me start with scholarships.  The Foundation awarded over $72,000 in scholarships to Custer County students this year.  The beauty of these scholarships is they are donor-funded, meaning the donor has established a scholarship with the Foundation based on the criteria wanting to be used regarding the selection process and they then fund the scholarship.  The Foundation manages the funds, handles all aspects of administering the scholarship, thus allowing the donor the pleasure of supporting local youth without the headache associated with administering the scholarship.  Attempting to set up a scholarship on your own is no easy task because there are so many regulations that must be followed, not to mention verifying student enrollment and grades if GPA is a requirement of the scholarship.  Many of our scholarships are established in memory of a loved one, which not only allows this individual to be honored, but gives support to our local youth at the same time.  How great is that?

As I switch gears and talk about affiliate funds, I am also referring to pass-through funds.  The Foundation offers affiliate funds to any organization raising money for a cause that would be considered “not for profit”.  Many organizations take advantage of these funds so they do not have to go through the process of applying for and receiving 501c3 status.  This status is important because, without it, donations received are not considered tax deductible.  By establishing an affiliate fund the organization can use the Foundation’s 501c3, checks are made payable to the Custer County Foundation, and the money goes to the affiliate fund’s account within the Foundation.  Affiliate funds are also advantageous because the donor can rest easy in knowing the Foundation is managing these funds and making sure they are being used as the donor intended.  It also allows smaller organizations to use their man power more efficiently.  

If you have ever discussed the Foundation with me, you know I try to include our grants program in every conversation (one of my other favorite things about foundations).  Every year the Foundation has two grant cycles–one in the Spring and one in the Fall.  The Foundation receives grant applications requesting money from organizations to support their cause.  Every December we hold an annual fundraising event to fund our grants program.  This event consists of dinner, raffle items, and a silent and live auction.  Without the generosity we receive from donors, the grants program would not be possible.  The impact the grants program has on Custer County is tremendous, and we are very grateful for the support we receive at our annual fundraising event to continue helping organizations.  

In the case of the Custer County Foundation we ARE the county’s savings account.  With donors establishing scholarship funds, organizations opening affiliate funds, the numerous other funds we offer, and the donations we receive at our annual fundraiser can be pooled together and invested, the impact is even greater.  Funds established at the Foundation receive a portion of the pooled investment income helping those investor’s account balances increase right along with that of the Foundation’s.  
It appears I am getting a little long-winded, yet I haven’t even touched on the Book of Memory, Donor Advised Funds, Field of Interest Funds, Endowment Funds or the Donor Wall.  I will leave these topics for a later conversation.  If you have any questions about the Custer County Foundation, or any services we offer, please do not hesitate to contact me at the Foundation office at 308-872-2232 or via email at custerfoundation@msn.com.