Establishing and growing rural community endowments was the topic of discussion Thursday at a Hometown Competitiveness workshop in Marion.
More than 40 representatives from cities, counties, and businesses from throughout central Kansas attended the workshop, Marion County Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman said, including representatives of Hillsboro, Marion, and Goessel.
Leon Atwell and Don Macke of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship led the discussion. Participants were encouraged to find ways to either establish or enlarge a community endowment.
An endowment is a permanent fund that is invested. Proceeds from investments can be used to fund projects and scholarships, Atwell said. Many universities use endowments, and large endowments lend prestige to those institutions.
The first step to establishing an endowment is to have a foundation to administer it. Communities can create their own foundation or partner with an existing foundation, Macke said.
When the groundwork is laid, fundraising can begin. The first step is to make sure possible donors know there is a local fund. Public campaigns can help, and so can informing area financial planners of its existence.
Building confidence in a foundation is key to fundraising, Macke said. The three biggest reasons people give are belief in the institution’s mission, its fiscal responsibility, and its leadership.
Hillsboro already has a $250,000 endowment, City Administrator Larry Paine said. The foundation responsible for the endowment is moving forward to enlarge the fund.
Marion Advancement Campaign (MAC) serves as a foundation and provides grants and scholarships, Marion Economic Development Director Doug Kjellin said. MAC is working toward creating a full-fledged endowment, he added.
The workshop was a success, Huffman said.
“It went very well,” she said. “The comments were excellent.”
Huffman said she learned of Hometown Competitiveness in spring 2007. Since then she has worked to bring workshops to central Kansas and specifically Marion County.
A previous workshop was held in Herington. A youth attraction workshop will be April 23 in Wabaunsee County, and the series will return to Marion May 21 for a leadership workshop.
Hometown Competitiveness is a program aimed at reversing rural decline. Its curriculum tries to teach communities how to develop leaders, support entrepreneurs, attract and engage youth, and keep charitable giving within the community.