CFLL: Building an endowment is an investment

The State Journal-Register

“Unbeknownst to my board and to me, there was a $30,000 loan coming due one month after I was hired,” Walters said. “We had to really tighten our belts, and we did pay off that loan in 18 months.”

Because of this experience, Walters resolved to work toward better financial security for the Prairie Center. So when John Stremsterfer, who was newly appointed executive director of the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln at that time, informed Walters about the opportunity to create an endowment, she was on board from the beginning.

“He mentioned endowment funds, and I asked if it would be possible for nonprofits to do that,” Walters recalled. “The Community Foundation offered us the opportunity to do this, and they handle all of the investment aspects for us.”

The Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault serves 11 counties in central Illinois with rape crisis services. They provide free and confidential counseling, as well as medical and court advocacy to victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse. The center also provides sexual assault prevention programs for children.

The Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault Endowment Fund will help secure these services for future generations, Walters said.

“Donors can know that we can access those funds at a future date,” she said.

Currently, anyone interested in giving to the center is asked if he or she would prefer to donate to the endowment or to yearly operational costs. The endowment fund has been built up to $50,000, and the goal before using the funds is to reach $100,000.

“The idea is to eventually become more self-sufficient, moving away from the dependency of state and federal funds,” Walters said.

Having an endowment is “another tool in the toolbox” for a nonprofit building diverse sources of income, said Stremsterfer. Working with the community foundation allows a nonprofit organization to concentrate on their mission and on serving their clients, instead of expending valuable time and resources managing an endowment fund.

“For an organization like the Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault, their employees should focus on the important work of helping people who have experienced this horrific trauma in their life, rather than having to worry about investment policies and planned gifts to their endowment fund,” Stremsterfer said.

With a board of seven people and a staff of 13, the Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault’s main office is in Springfield with a satellite office in Jacksonville. Expanding to another office would be a long-term goal of the center.

“It would be wonderful if, down the road, we could expand a little more,” Walters said. “We have great need in Jersey County. Expansion of services is always something we think about, to have an actual office somewhere else.”

An endowment fund set up with the community foundation is somewhat unique within the nonprofit field, and Walters is thrilled with the opportunity to offer this option to donors.

“Our donors like the idea of a long-term strategy,” she said.

The Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln administers more than 30 endowment funds for local nonprofit organizations. For more information about giving to any of these funds or helping an organization establish its own fund, visit or contact the Community Foundation at 789-4431 or [email protected].