Not just for the Rockefellers—learn how you can start your own local charitable fund

Read Time 4 Minutes


In 2019, the Community Foundation celebrated their 60th Anniversary. Photo courtesy of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham

It never fails. Whenever I watch a Ken Burns documentary, I see credits at the beginning of each program that either say the Ford Foundation or Rockefeller Foundation supported one of his iconic films.

Did you know—you too can have your own foundation via a donor-advised fund with the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham?

To learn more about donor-advised funds, visit their website – HERE

You can have a Fund too

“People might think that foundations are for the Fords or the Rockefellers, but they are not,” said Laura Woodruff, who along with her husband David, has had a donor-advised fund with the Community Foundation since 2007.

“You can have a modest foundation like ours and still be able to make grants that help bigger things than you can do by yourself. Small grants can be as important as big ones.”

230+ funds

One of the many non-profits donor advised funds can support – Bibb and Tucker Sew-Op. Photo courtesy of Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham

According to Lora Blalock, Vice President for Philanthropic Services at the Community Foundation, there are up to 230 donor-advised funds within the Community Foundation.

They are easy to set up. You don’t have to be a Rockefeller or a Ford.

Here are the details.

Starting at $15,000

Kathryn, Lindsey and Robert Ring use their Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation to incorporate philanthropy into their family life. Photo courtesy of Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham

With as little as $15,000, anyone in our community can set up a donor-advised fund with the Community Foundation. And it doesn’t have to come from just one individual or a family. Friends, co-workers, a local business…anyone can pool their money and create a fund to support charitable causes.

Using a “fund agreement,” the Community Foundation will help you set up a grantmaking fund. Once established you (or your family/friends) can recommend grants from the fund during your lifetime or identify advisors who may serve this function if the fund is to be established through a bequest.

By creating a donor-advised fund, you join 500 local funds all serving the greater Birmingham area, with each having access to the hundreds of nonprofit organizations the Community Foundation works with every day.

Making a big impact

Woven Together: Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham from Community Foundation on Vimeo.

Need some examples of how a donor-advised fund works?

You can set up a fund to give annually to an alma mater for scholarships or research. You can support your local church and their soup kitchen. You may want to fund parks like Ruffner Mountain or build a trail for the Freshwater Land Trust.

High Ore Trail Ribbon Cutting on August 2, 2019. Photo courtesy of the Freshwater Land Trust

Your options are unlimited as long as it is a charitable cause.

The Woodruffs set up their fund to help the most needy—folks who are homeless, hungry and need medical care.

Because they are a part of the Community Foundation, the Woodruffs also have opportunities to support some of the Foundation’s efforts.

“The Community Foundation staff often makes us aware of important grants that have not been fully funded,” added Laura Woodruff. They (Community Foundation) have a request for $20,000, but they need the final $5,000 or $2,500 to complete the grant. That’s an opportunity for us to make a small contribution but yet have a big impact—helping the program go forward fully funded. That’s happened many times.”

Knitting Our Community Together

Alabama Symphony Orchestra at Railroad Park. Photo courtesy of Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham

Alice Bowsher, a prominent historic preservationist in Birmingham, describes her donor-advised fund and the Community Foundation as “knitting our community together.”

Over the years, she supported various causes she cares about through her donor-advised fund, like Railroad Park, Red Mountain Park, the rehabilitation of the Pizitz building and Vulcan Park and Museum.

Birmingham, Vulcan, Vulcan Park and Museum, Museum Day
The Vulcan statue watches over Birmingham. Photo via Vulcan Park and Museum

Bowsher explained:

“It (the donor-advised fund) goes to things I care about. I have given to Vulcan Park in the past because I am a great believer when physical places come together. Vulcan is not just a park—it also embodies Birmingham’s roots, the stories of how it originated, the aspirations of casting the largest cast-iron statue in the world and winning a prize at the World’s Fair.

To me, Vulcan is both a landmark and a reminder of how we are knit together as a community.”

Giving back to the community

Reception at the Lyric Theatre celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. Photo courtesy of Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham

Are you ready to “give back “ Birmingham? Become your own local Rockefeller Foundation?

The Community Foundation’s Blalock summed up it best.

“Having a fund at the Community Foundation is a double bottom line. Not only are you impacting the community or the nonprofit organizations you care about, but you are also supporting the Community Foundation and our role as a convenor and leader to address issues critical issues across our region.”

Learn how to create your own donor-advised fund with the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham today.

Sponsored by:

Community Foundation of Birmingham


Default image
Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
Articles: 1781