Planning your charitable giving and estate to do as much good, for the place you love the most, for as long as possible.

Imagine being able to make your community a better place, forever, with one swipe of a pen. That kind of generosity might seem limited to people with last names like Benedum, Buffett, Ford, or Gates—but it isn’t. “Everybody can be a philanthropist,” says Paul D. Daugherty, president and CEO of Philanthropy West Virginia.

West Virginia and its citizens are faced with a once-in-a-century opportunity. It is a generational transfer of wealth passing from the Maturer and Baby Boomer generations to the younger generations. Billions of dollars will pass to the younger generations over the next few decades.

As these older generations plan their estates and annual charitable giving, some of the estates will pass to family, friends, and national groups. This is a tremendous opportunity to donate a percentage of an estate for long-term community needs by partnering with local community foundations. But while these estate plans might seem like only a drop in a very large bucket to organizations with nine- and ten-figure endowments, that same money could be a game changer for any West Virginia community and the community foundations serving them.

What’s a community foundation? It’s a grantmaking public charity that is geographically focused to the communities or counties laid out in its charter. While the geographic reach of a community foundation might be limited, their potential to do good is unlimited. Community foundations are flexible enough to work with donors from all walks of life to give money where its needed most: whether that means supporting economic development, arts and culture, education, children and youth programs, senior services, or anything else their community needs.

West Virginia’s community foundations are growing in number and grantmaking impact. In 1999, the state had 11 community foundations serving 32 counties. Their combined assets totaled $125 million and the groups granted over $5 million annually to numerous programs and causes across West Virginia. Twenty years later, we have 27 community foundations reaching 52 counties. They have combined assets of $523 million and annual grantmaking of more than $22.5 Million.

That growth can continue in a huge way. “If every West Virginian allocated at least five percent of their estates to community philanthropy, each community would have endowed funds that would produce grants forever strengthening our communities and responding to their greatest needs,” Daugherty says.

In other words, a percentage of your estate has the potential to make a tremendous difference, if placed in the right hands. “When you build a fund, you build a community,” Daugherty says.

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