Frequently Asked Questions

What is a community foundation?

There are approximately 700 community foundations in the US that provide convenient bridges between donors and nonprofit organizations. In addition to fundraising, money management, and grantmaking, community foundations act as catalysts for community improvement by collaborating with a wide variety of partners. They serve as conveners of individuals, institutions, and resources to solve community concerns; researchers to study community issues; and community builders to unite, strengthen, and promote their respective communities.

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What is the Rochester Area Foundation (RAF)?

The Rochester Area Foundation is the realization of the vision of Mr. Harry Harwick, a longtime Chief Administrative Officer of the Mayo Foundation. He and his contemporaries forged this vehicle in 1944 to receive and make a positive impact, assisting those in need. That vision remains a bulwark of the work of the foundation to this day; RAF is the recognized leader in preparing the Greater Rochester area for its future challenges, expanding the culture of giving, and galvanizing diverse resources to improve the quality of life for all.

We are a charitable organization different in that you don't give to us -- you give through us to nonprofits to make a difference.

The Rochester Area Foundation is the community’s endowment.

We support the Greater Rochester Area forever. Endowments allow individuals, families, organizations and businesses to assure lasting impact by preserving principal and making grants from earnings. Your permanent gift may be part of a legacy fund, donor advised foundation or the community endowment.

Your gifts, your legacy. By endowing your gifts today, you can make a difference in the greater Rochester area during your lifetime and provide a gift that lasts forever. We’ll make grants in the name of your fund forever. We’ll always honor your charitable wishes.

Security and stability. Nonprofit leaders look to the Rochester Area Foundation for nonprofit endowment funds. Top-grade investment management and professional accounting yield a constant source of funding to help organizations respond to emergency needs, plan for the future and sustain the good work they do.

Expert help. When donors or nonprofit organizations work through the Foundation to achieve their charitable goals, they benefit from the expertise of experienced local program staff, community leadership and investment management.

One gift, many generations. Consider how an endowed gift grows. In 1979 a $10,000 fund was started in 1979. Thirty years later in 2012 it was worth more than $68,000: $30,000 in asset value and a distribution of over $38,000 in cumulative grants. The average growth rate of the fund was 9.5%. Through your children or heirs your generosity can flow forward to benefit future generations, continuing to make a difference in the world for years and years to come.

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What is the difference between a private foundation and a community foundation?

As a public charity, the Rochester Area Foundation offers donors a number of advantages over a private foundation. Investment income isn’t taxed and there are no annual payout requirements. In addition, donors are eligible to deduct a larger percentage of their charitable gift for tax purposes. There is no cost to establish a RAF fund, and there are lower administrative fees that remain in the community. In addition, our expert staff has an intimate knowledge of the community and can help donors determine how to make the most significant impact now and into the future.

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How is the RAF different from other nonprofit organizations?

Most nonprofit organizations have a very specific mission and purpose. The mission of the foundation is very broad and enables us to connect people who care with a variety of the causes that matter. This flexibility and breadth of our mission allows us to serve a wider group of potential donors and a wider group of nonprofit organizations.

So you are like United Way?

Not exactly. Both organizations have a broad mission and serve similar geographic areas. And both work together as partners yet we are different in several key ways:

  • Community foundations focus on attracting and managing permanent endowments. Most chapters of the United Way do not attempt to manage long-term funds.
  • The United Way focuses its work on annual fundraising campaigns. Community foundations seek to attract long-term gifts.
  • The United Way tends to focus on essential human needs and social service organizations. Community foundations can serve these needs as well as arts and culture, education, environment, scholarships, neighborhoods and communities and special initiatives including affordable housing through First Homes.

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Why give a gift to RAF rather than directly to my favorite charity?

There are many great ways to support the many nonprofits in the greater Rochester area. By establishing a fund at the Rochester Area Foundation, you can create a permanent gift that will produce income and enable you to give grants in perpetuity. This way you can be assured that your favorite charities will continue to get your annual support. You can set up a fund within your lifetime or create a lasting legacy by creating a bequest to RAF in your will.

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What are the advantages of working with the Rochester Area Foundation?

  1. We make charitable investments more effective.
  2. We are a local organization with deep roots in the community and we’re here to serve you.  And our fees remain in the Greater Rochester Area, where they benefit local organizations through financial and technical support.
  3. Our small professional staff has broad expertise regarding community issues and needs.
  4. We provide highly personalized service tailored to each individual's charitable and financial interests.
  5. We accept a wide variety of assets, and can facilitate even the most complex forms of giving.
  6. We partner with professional advisors to create highly effective approaches to charitable giving.
  7. We build endowment funds that benefit the community forever and help create personal legacies.
  8. We are your advocate, evaluating each project before distributing grant dollars to ensure the organization is viable and its leadership is effective.
  9. We make it easy to give. Whether you contribute to an existing fund or start one of your own, we take care of administration so you can focus on making a difference.
  10. We offer impact. Once you open a fund, we can help you develop a strategy. We pool the funds which allows for maximized investment returns.
  11. We offer maximum tax benefits. We are a public charity and all contributions to a community foundation are fully tax-deductible.

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What kind of funds can be established?

RAF offers you great flexibility in the kind of fund you can establish and in the level of involvement you desire. Giving to the Rochester Area Foundation is easy and doesn't require great wealth. No matter how much you give, your charitable giving will be meaningful when it is aligned with your values, life experiences and desire to help the greater Rochester area community thrive.

Each of our funds is a reflection of their founding donor(s) - individual, family, group or organization's particular philanthropic goals. Every fund benefits from the economies of scale achieved when charitable assets are pooled for administrative and investment purposes. While all philanthropy adds value to the community, each type of RAF fund provides differing added value to philanthropy in the community. Donors make the choice based on personal preference and charitable interests. Regardless the level of involvement you choose, you can target your fund to support particular interests, scholarships, nonprofit organizations or purposes.

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How is the Rochester Area Foundation impacting our community?

On an ongoing basis, community needs are assessed and projects are selected based on where our resources, from a combination of our funds, can deliver the best outcomes. The power of philanthropy is in the positive change it creates. Read more Annual Reports and Donor Stories

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How can you strengthen our community through the Rochester Area Foundation?

Wherever you are in your personal philanthropic journey, we are prepared to help you to make an impact on the causes that matter to you. Your generosity can flow forward to benefit future generations, continuing to make a difference in the world for years and years to come. In addition to helping families and individuals establish funds we work with nonprofits to establish endowment funds with the intent of providing a constant source of funding to sustain their charitable activities. The power of philanthropy is in the positive change it creates.

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