By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 8, 2009
It is early in 2009. The glow of the year ahead hasn’t dimmed. Those resolutions still seem possible.
And if getting your financial house in order is one of them, the rejuvenated Catholic Foundation of North Georgia may be able to help you. (And even if that didn’t make your New Year’s resolutions, it cannot hurt to consider it anyway.)
The foundation is reaching out to Catholics to help them with planned gifts to support their parishes, charities of choice and bequests.
As the director of gift planning, Diane Duquette works with estate-planning attorneys and tax advisors of the donors to assure that the donor’s charitable intentions are met and that the gift is one that the charity can accept. The foundation also works with donors who want to leave money for endowments for Catholic organizations.
“We want to help Catholics make a difference in the lives of those who follow,” said Duquette.
An example is a recent gift of a ranch home that became a treasure three times over.
The owner gave his home and the contents to the foundation. Now living in a nursing home, the house weighed on his mind. The foundation helped navigate its sale, ensuring the money went where the owner wanted.
“He wanted it to help people,” said Duquette
And it did. The furniture from this Riverdale home was used by Catholic Charities to settle three refugee families in new apartments. Other items were donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Once it is sold, the proceeds from the home will go mostly to St. John the Evangelist School in Hapeville where the man and his deceased wife volunteered. About 20 percent will go to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, which was also a special place for him.
“It is the sort of gift that just kept giving,” she said.
Duquette battles the idea that to leave a gift of value a person needs to have a bank account like Bill Gates. She said most people don’t have cash to help parishes and charities but do have things like IRAs, life insurance and collectibles or they can leave a bequest through their will. The foundation can help people make gifts to charities of their choice, she said.
This man was not well-to-do, she said, but his gift will affect so many people now and in the future.
“Look at how many lives he touched. He didn’t have that much. Every single person can make a difference,” she said.
As a bonus, the donor received a significant tax deduction. With the help of the foundation, more of his money went to causes he believes in and less to the tax collector.
Setting A New Course
The foundation is also expanding its services to aid Catholic parishes and schools. It wants to set up endowment funds to pay for future goals of these institutions without having to rely only on the collection basket.
The Catholic Foundation of North Georgia was established in 1992. The foundation focused its efforts for several years on providing grants. Before the downturn in the economy, the assets were valued near $13 million. Other similar organizations have much larger bank accounts. The older Dallas Catholic foundation has assets listed at $124 million, according to its 2007 annual report.
The leaders want to reverse that.
“We had a period of time where the foundation was giving grants but not building endowments or seeking new donations. We have some catching up to do,” said executive director Nancy Coveny in a statement.
New foundation director Joseph Ledlie, president of the Ledlie Group, also noted in an e-mail that every major faith in Atlanta has a foundation and some even have more than one.
He said the charitable foundation is a gift to the church with its potential to do good work.
“It’s time for our own charism to be applied to the problems of our area,” said Ledlie, who has been on the board for a year and is its secretary.
In 2007, the foundation began to reorganize. New members joined the board of directors. A new executive director was hired in July. New offices opened in Sandy Springs. It adopted a policy to be more transparent and will report its assets and liabilities to the IRS so potential donors can see its worthiness. The nonprofit foundation is exempt from reporting its finances to the government because of its affiliation with the archdiocese.
The concentration is on building the infrastructure of the foundation, establishing new investment policies, helping individuals who want to make planned gifts, and helping parishes and schools start endowments.
Clarence Smith, the chief executive officer and president of Havertys Furniture, serves as the chairman of the foundation.
Smith, 57, who worships at the Cathedral of Christ the King, said the foundation was restructured at the request of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, to assist the Catholic community to be more effective in raising money for issues and charities through professional development and planned gift-giving.
The foundation will continue to hand out grants, but a long-term goal is to establish endowments for the nearly 100 parishes and missions in the archdiocese and schools. In 2007, it awarded $258,0000 to school and community groups.
To get more information about the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia, e-mail executive director Nancy D. Coveny at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about gift planning is available at the archdiocesan Web site: www.archatl.com/giving/gp.