Prologue: Jeff Hert served as the Community Foundation’s Board Chair from 2022-2023. Community members like Jeff have the ability to get involved with the Foundation and use their skills to help transform their community. With over two decades of financial acumen, Jeff has served as a valued member of not only our Board of Trustees but also our Investment Committee.
“One of the first questions I faced when I joined the Midland Area Community Foundation Board of Trustees was, ‘What committees do I want to be involved with?’ I work with Rehmann as a CPA and a tax principal, and I’ve been with the firm for 25 years. Our founder, Jack Rehmann, passed away late last year, and he was on the board for Saginaw Community Foundation.
‘I served on their Investment Committee so I could help the foundation make money and continue using that money to help the people they serve,’ I remember him saying. ‘That’s the best use of my time and talent.’
Because of what Jack said and my financial experience, I raised my hand for the Investment and Impact Investment Committees.
One of the purposes of the Investment Committee is to preserve over 700 endowed funds with the Foundation forever, into perpetuity. When we receive contributions, some of that money might be spendable now, but a lot of it goes into investment funds so that money can grow and continue to serve people in the community for many years to come. That’s why the Investment Committee is so important.
It’s a challenging committee to be on because of what happens in the market year by year. It can be volatile, especially as of late. That might seem challenging, but the Foundation has existed for nearly 50 years and there have been a lot of ups and downs in the markets. We also have a lot of resources: our volunteers, our investment advisor at Fund Evaluation Group, Kyle Fahrner the Community Foundation’s Chief Financial Officer, as well as other folks on staff at the Foundation. All of us are focusing on our investment portfolios to make sure that we’re in a good spot, now and forever.
Take the year 2020: You can’t make something like that up! When the shutdown occurred in March of that year, many investment portfolios dropped. No one knew what was going on or how it was going to affect society, let alone our investments.
Then, while COVID was happening, we had the flood. The flood wasn’t a national event, but it was a very significant local event and we granted to help people who didn’t know where their next check was coming or how they were going to keep their lights on. We wouldn’t have been able to do that unless we were growing money within our portfolio over time. Because good financial decisions were made before those events, we were able to help people during those times while knowing we would also be able to continue helping people far into the future.
We pay taxes to our governments so they can help provide resources for the community. But what happens when that’s not enough to cover everyone’s needs? The organizations in our community help fill those gaps but are all competing for the same dollars, so who’s going to help them out when they’re in need? Who is going to fill in those gaps?
That’s where the Community Foundation can come in. The Investment Committee drives our ability to continue helping people into the future. Each year, we make what’s called impact grants. They’re not investments, but grant dollars given to nonprofit organizations who are making an impact on our community.
Sometimes, people think that they have to be wealthy for their donations to create a big change, but you don’t have to be wealthy to give to a community foundation. You can give $1, $10 or $20 to your local community foundation and be part of something. That could be in the arts, scholarships, emergency relief, or economic development. You look at projects like work in the Center City Corridor and South Saginaw Road Corridor. The changes that have gone on there – we made a grant to assist with that. The current Center City Corridor changes weren’t even on the radar 25 years ago in terms of making those kinds of improvements, but someone’s dollars from way back then have impacted these changes.
A perfect analogy is a ‘ripple effect.’ Each fall the Midland Area Community Foundation has a program called Ripple Effect to show the impact of the investments in the community, and those investments truly spread (or ripple) throughout the community and over time. The Foundation is a hub and a way for the community to maximize its philanthropic intent as it makes an impact both now and far into the future.
We don’t know what the future holds, but the Foundation is a way to do good – for ever, for all.”