It's a phenomenon called "the transfer of wealth" and what that means is in Ellis County alone in the years 2010-2020, $800 million will transfer through estates from one generation to the next. The transfer of wealth figure for Trego County during that same time period is $184 million and for Rooks County, $92 million. On one hand, that's good news in that the monies being transferred are staying within the family.
On the other hand, a great deal of that money being transferred is in fact leaving local communities and in many instances leaving the state of Kansas, because younger family members are moving away from home. According to a recently updated, transfer of wealth study by Wichita State University, $79 billion will be transferred by the year 2020 in Kansas and that figure will grow to $598 billion by the year 2064.
Our local Heartland Community Foundation has joined the 70 other community foundations in Kansas in a new program called "Keep 5 In Kansas" which means finding a way to keep 5 percent of the wealth being transferred in Kansas, preserved and invested in communities across the state. If that can be done before the year 2020, up to $4 billion would be kept and utilized in communities statewide and in Ellis County alone, that figure would be $40 million.
So how do we go about "Keeping 5 In Kansas?" Think for a moment about what matters most to you. Is it the church where you worship or the schools your children or grandchildren attend? Are you concerned with the parks where kids play or is it a local charity that you care deeply about? Is your passion higher education or supporting your local hospital? How can you ensure that the things that make your community unique and the things you love continue to exist long after you've gone?
Here's how Bernadine Sitts, a retired and beloved school teacher in Garden City, now deceased, chose to keep it in Kansas: Bernadine shared her estate with the school system in her hometown. She reached out to the local community foundation and established a scholarship fund for high school graduates who had attended the intermediate school named after her. Shortly after that gesture she established a second fund to take care of the needs of "her school" into the future.
Whether you are a potential donor, a professional adviser, a local nonprofit director or someone who's simply concerned about the future of your community (like Ms. Sitts), connecting with your local community foundation is the first step toward a better tomorrow not only for your community but also for the state of Kansas.
In years past, most families lived in the same community and thus wealth was easily passed from generation to generation and it stayed locally. That lifestyle has changed. Many families now live hundreds of miles apart. Once the family wealth leaves a community, it may never return. Community foundations hope to encourage residents to designate a portion of their estates, or 401 (k) and IRA accounts, life insurance policies or land to current permanent endowments or to establish new ones. This is a wonderful way to leave family legacies and to support the area the donor has loved so much for so long.
By definition, community foundations are tax exempt, autonomous, non-sectarian, philanthropic institutions created by and for the people of a local area. Their long-term goal is to serve local communities by building permanent funds supported by many donors. Community foundations also act as trusted knowledgeable leaders in assisting individuals, families and businesses with their charitable giving decisions.
Through the "Keep 5 In Kansas" program, we all have an opportunity to build a better future for local citizens. By keeping just 5 percent of the wealth currently being transferred we can strengthen the places we call home, improve our quality of life, and create a legacy that will benefit generations to come.
Bob Lowen, executive director, Heartland Community Foundation