August 1, 2014
After 27 years in existence, the Irish American Partnership is announcing a new opportunity for men and women of Irish heritage to give something back to the small island their ancestors left to come to America. The creation of an Irish American Partnership endowment fund named The Irish Legacy Society will help preserve and strengthen the Partnership and its ability to help Ireland well into the future.
The Partnership’s board of directors initiated the fund by donating its first investment – a $300,000 contribution – earlier this year while also forming an investment committee, with three experienced directors appointed to manage the fund.
Dictionaries define the word “legacy” differently. The one that seems to apply here is this: “Something that is handed down or remains from one generation to the next: a heritage or tradition. Something received from an ancestor.”
Research shows that more than 80 percent of planned gifts from estates to charities and institutions like universities, hospitals, and other organizations take the form of bequests in wills. With 401k and retirement savings at an all-time high, planning for the distribution of even small estates is a prudent and very wise decision.
There are so many state and federal tax considerations that before a bequest is added to a will the Partnership suggests that donors consult with their financial/ tax advisors. Taxes on unplanned estates can be very high, especially with today’s popular 401k or 403b withdrawals deemed taxable as income.
An endowment fund can also have an enormously comforting effect on Partnership supporters. The idea that the Partnership plans to be around a long time and can offer donors the option of providing a gift that will keep on giving well into the future is very reassuring. An endowment is a fund that is restricted. Only the interest and earnings can be spent, not the principal monies invested. The Partnership investment policy, which has been added to its by-laws, allows only the interest or earnings to be sent to Ireland in a given year. And this is limited to five percent of the fund to insure that the original funds will grow and provide for Ireland for years to come. This spendable amount requires the vote of the board when it is allocated to Ireland.
Opportunities for endowment funds to accumulate additional principal seem exceptionally high in these times. According to the internet financial news company “Business Insider,” we are on the verge of the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the world: a handover over the next several years of about $12 trillion from those born in the 1920s and 1930s to the so-called Baby Boomers.
Endowment funds are not new; they have been a staple of American philanthropy for many years. Harvard University has the largest educational endowment fund in the United States at approximately $32 billion. Boston College, originally a school for poor immigrant Irish, has grown its endowment very nicely to $1.8 billion, and it now ranks #41 in the country amongst universities. The archdiocese of Boston calls its endowment fund the Catholic Community Fund. It is not very large, at approximately $28 million, and the church’s latest report indicates they withdrew $1,664,633 last year, or about 5.8 percent, to support its work with schools, social services and Parishes.
The Partnership’s Legacy Society contributors will have the advantage of being able to direct the earnings from their gifts to their own designated projects in Ireland as long as the proposals are consistent with the Partnership’s mission and are approved by the board of directors.
The minimum gift requirement for such a designated gift is $10,000, which will generate at least $500 each year and so be a gift that will keep on giving for all the years ahead. Imagine a small school in Western Ireland that today must have bake sales and numerous fundraising efforts in order to educate their students being able to count on help from the United States. Imagine a Partnership endowment fund of $20 million that will give a million dollars to Ireland’s schools in perpetuity. Imagine what that will do for Ireland’s future.
Ireland is a small country, by many standards insignificant on the world stage. Its population of 4.7 million people in the Republic and 1.8 million in the North ranks the country about 118th in the world. Portugal, at 10.5 million, and the Netherlands, at 16.8 million, are much larger. For all that, the key to Ireland’s future is the strength and education of its people. A significant Irish American Partnership Endowment fund will surely have great impact on the island of Ireland long into the future.
Joe Leary is president and CEO of the Irish American Partnership.