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Commentary: Leaving a lasting legacy

Sarah Grant is Director of Development at Galesburg Community Foundation.
Sarah Grant is Director of Development at Galesburg Community Foundation.

Have you heard of the transfer of wealth? It’s the process of assets changing hands as they go from one generation to the next.

For previous generations, the transfer of wealth remained largely in the communities where the wealth originated because generations of families stayed close to home. But today, as families grow and move away, rural communities in particular are seeing generational wealth leave with them. This can have a huge impact on the economic vitality and social fabric of the region.

Consider this: in the ten years leading up to 2030, 5.4 billion dollars in Fulton, Henderson, Hancock, Knox, McDonough, and Warren counties will pass from one generation to the next, with billions more to be handed down in the decades to follow.

We all understand the drive to leave a legacy that creates opportunities for our children and grandchildren. But our communities and the causes we care about can also benefit from that same generosity.

If just five percent of the 10-year transfer of wealth was invested into endowments, that would be more than 270 million dollars invested into nonprofits throughout the region.

Helping charitable individuals establish or connect with existing endowment funds is one of the key missions of Community Foundations, which provide a centralized way for pooling and managing philanthropic resources. Community Foundations have a deep understanding of local communities and their unique challenges and can help ensure that resources are directed toward areas where they can have the greatest impact.

With an endowment, the initial gift and any future contributions to the fund are invested. A percentage of the value of the endowment is distributed in the form of annual grants while the interest earned above and beyond the amount spent is reinvested into the fund, ensuring future growth. This intentional giving can contribute to the long-term sustainability and resilience of our communities, addressing specific needs such as education, healthcare, arts, social services, and infrastructure.

As Director of Development at Galesburg Community Foundation, I meet with individuals who want the best for our region and I work with them, their families, and their financial advisors to help them leave a lasting legacy for the causes and places they love.

One of these individuals who left a legacy for her community was Peg Bivens, a champion of the community of Knoxville. Peg and other members of the Knoxville community worked with Galesburg Community Foundation to establish the endowed Knoxville Community Fund in 2015.

Peg not only helped establish the fund during her lifetime, she also made a planned gift to the fund, naming the Knoxville Community Fund as beneficiary of her life insurance policy. By making a planned gift, Peg gave her community a reliable resource that provides financial support for projects in her community--forever.

In the last year alone, the fund has awarded grants to two Knoxville food pantries to assist families facing food insecurity; provided a grant for accessible playground equipment in the local park, and funded teacher mini grants to enhance classroom curriculum.

Leaving a legacy is a powerful and enduring way for you to make a lasting impact. It’s a financial commitment to an organization, whether it’s to a community like Peg Bivens did for Knoxville or to another cause you’re passionate about. When you create or make a gift to an existing endowment fund, your gift transcends your lifetime, creating a ripple effect of positive change for generations to come.

Philanthropy is for everyone. By starting a fund or planning an estate gift through your local community foundation, you can create a permanent resource for our region, even as it continues changing. As an example, Galesburg Community Foundation maintains more than 200 different charitable funds, so whether you want to start your own fund or make a gift to a fund that has already been established, working with your local community foundation offers options as well as the expertise to help you give back to your community in the way that works best for you.

The start of a new year provides a natural moment for introspection. It’s a time to reflect on your values and goals and the kind of impact you want to have on your community. Then, all it takes is beginning the conversation—with your family, with your professional advisor, and with your local community foundation.


If you don't know where to find your local community foundation, visit the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations website at They have a map with contact information for community foundations throughout the state that can help you leave a lasting legacy that benefits the causes you care about.


The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.

 Sarah Grant is Director of Development at Galesburg Community Foundation, where she works with individuals to connect them to the causes they care about and improve the quality and health of our region. She previously spent 15 years overseeing the McDonough County Farm Bureau in Macomb.