Foundation Stories

Big Check, Big Impact

written by Shelley O’Brien, Executive Director of the Johnson County Library Foundation

The Johnson County Library Foundation makes a donation every year to the Johnson County Library. We like to call this the “Big Check” gift. This year the Foundation is able to donate $125,536. This will go to the purchasing of physical books for all of Johnson County Library’s 14 branch libraries.

The Foundation was founded in 1996 with the idea that we would support programming, the library collection, and build an endowment. We are very lucky that leaders from the 90s thought about the future.

In practical terms, what does this donation mean?

Good question, reader – it means about 5,000 books are being added to the collection, thanks to the Library Foundation. These materials will be a mix of children, teen and adult books, DVDs, CDs, and other printed material.

Great! Where did the money come from?

From the Johnson County Library Foundation’s endowment funds which are held at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. Over the past 20 years, donors have been giving to the Foundation and money has been saved. Some have been $20 donations all the way to planned gifts from a donor’s estate after they pass away. All the money together results in over $4 million in our accounts. For example, this year one person’s estate donated over $80,000 to the Library Foundation endowment. Truly a gift that will last forever.

What is an endowment?

An endowment is like a savings account where we don’t touch the principle or the invested dollars. Therefore, if you make a donation to the endowment, it stays there forever. We spend a portion of the profits.

Each year 3.75% of the endowment balance from the previous year is donated to the Library. Our endowments are invested in a wide variety of funds to decrease risk. Any additional funds made over the 3.75% are reinvested into the principle. It is a strategy that many non-profits and universities use to invest and spend their funds.  

Why don’t you spend all of the returns on investment?

Wow reader, you really do ask great questions. We like to stay with a consistent, fairly fiscally conservative average. If you are investing in pooled funds, you typically make 5% or a little more on average. There are good years and bad years. I’m old enough to remember the 90s dotcom bubble where my mutual funds were making 19% some quarters. And then the bubble burst where I lost money. It’s better to have a low average and save.

Who are the people in the photo?

Members of the Foundation Board and Library Board. From left to right: David Sims, Anne Blessing, Anna van Ophem, Kelly Kilgore, Mike Sherry, Bethenny Griffin, Tricia Suellentrop, Mitra Templin, Chuck Sipple, Commissioner Shirley Allenbrand, and Jeffrey Mendoza.

For any questions on the Foundation or the Foundation’s endowment, please drop me an email at [email protected]. Giving a gift to the endowment is a great way to invest in our library and our community.

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