A young reader (Taryn Ploski) places an animal on the map to signify donating her reading hours to Heifer International in lieu of a prize during the Portage District Library’s Summer Reading Program.

The Grandmother and CIG Endowment Fund, a designated fund at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, was established by a local family looking for a way to pay a lasting tribute to their parents — who were avid library users — and also ensure expanded library resources would last forever for the youth in our community.

Over the past 20 years, the Grandmother and CIG Endowment Fund’s investment performance has grown an average of 6.9 percent annually. Thanks to the outstanding investment return, this growth has enabled the Portage District Library to creatively supplement programming for youth in the Portage area.

"Proceeds from the endowment fund enabled us to offer special activities, projects, programs and learning opportunities that the library is unable to fund within its regular operating budget," says Christy Klien, library director at the Portage District Library. "The [local family’s] tribute to their loved ones benefits children and teens who use the library."

In 2017, the team added a philanthropic option for participants in the reading program beyond the traditional toy or coupon reward — an option made possible by the Grandmother and CIG Endowment Fund.

"Readers would be offered this option at each benchmark, which was after five hours of reading, until the funding for this prize option was exhausted," Klien adds. "The designated recipient of the 2017 funds was Heifer International, a charity organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock and training to struggling communities."

According to Klien, both professional studies and comments by patrons have indicated that external motivators such as toys do not improve reading achievement for some youth. In fact, Klien notes that philanthropic reading incentive programs at other libraries have proven successful and enjoyable motivators for youth, as well as adding an aspect of social-emotional learning to reading programs.

"Offering a philanthropic alternative to extrinsic, tangible reading program incentives is important to those we serve because it fits trends in both the larger library and education world and the strategic goals of the Portage District Library," Klien says.

In the first year of offering this new philanthropic option as part of the Summer Reading Program, almost 300 youth chose to participate.

"The Grandmother and CIG Endowment Fund and the Portage District Library are great examples that illustrate our financial investment performance as well as the impact from those dollars," says Susan Springgate, vice president of KZCF’s Finance and Administration. "The success from our investment performance strategy not only enabled us to support community programs similar to the Summer Reading Program, but also award approximately $434 million since 1925 in grants to area nonprofits and in scholarships to area students."

The Kalamazoo Community Foundation was ranked in the top 1 percent for the 10-year period ending December 31, 2017, by New York City-based Colonial Consulting’s national ranking of community foundation financial investment performance.

"Our investment strategy is one of disciplined asset allocation, regular rebalancing, minimizing fees and expenses, and not reacting to near term market pressures or investment fads," Springgate explains.

"The Community Foundation Financial Investment Committee’s strategy is the same investment approach as the City of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo County relative to the investment of their retirement assets," Springgate adds. "This model is applied to the Community Foundation’s core assets, with an asset allocation strategy of 70 percent equities, 25 percent fixed income and 5 percent real estate endowed funds (about 90 percent of the Community Foundation’s managed assets). For non-endowed funds, the committee employs a strategy that is 50 percent equities and 50 percent fixed income."

Springgate says the hallmark of the Financial Investment Committee is this melding of intellectual capital with a practical, disciplined investment approach. She adds, "While nothing can be guaranteed for the future, we believe that it will bring added value to the community for many years to come."

Click here to read the next 2017 Annual Report article "Amplifying Voices"

This article was originally published in the Kalamazoo Community Foundation 2017 Annual Report. To view the complete 2017 Annual Report, click here.