From The Executive Director
The Saga of the Endowment
This year the American Rhododendron Society will celebrate its 59th birthday. Like most 59-year-olds, we experienced a few aches and pains in 2003, and a few of the family skeletons fell out of the closet. In order to keep us happy and healthy, it was time to tend to a few housekeeping problems that had never quite been settled. I particularly enjoyed the "Saga of the Endowment Fund."
First there was the great announcement in spring 2003 that, alas, we now have money in the Endowment Fund, and following a meticulously prepared granting procedure, and board approval, the Endowment Fund Committee happily announced the first recipients of some of the income from the fund. A few folks hadn't been paying attention, or weren't reading their journals, and were still out in la-la land, dreaming of the magic million dollars that we would accumulate before ever touching a penny of the money. A naughty letter arrived in the president's office, and it was time to trace the Endowment road that had been paved with oh so many good intentions since 1984. The OARS Research Department (a.k.a. moi) copied 110 pages of minutes from meetings, compiling a 37-page document of the events leading up to a state of mass confusion. A few minor hiccups in our history included the fact that we started asking for donations for a fund which could be used for publications and, thusly, avoid ever increasing our dues. Wow, what a great idea, but a little frowned on by the IRS to give money to help yourself when you're a proper not-for-profit 501c 3 charitable organization (that means we're members because we like the idea of working together to educate our members and the general public). Someone decided it would be wonderful to create a million dollar fund by 1995. This was in 1985, but we still hadn't established the fund. In 1988 someone else moved that we cancel the million-dollar goal and put the income from the Endowment Fund into operating expenses. Those who disagreed simply developed convenient amnesia and are still chanting about the magic million (approach these people with extreme caution).
In 1988 a couple of very wise board members suggested that we formally establish an Endowment Fund. Then there was discussion about a capital campaign to build the fund. Along came 1995, and we were short of our goal by $922,694. It may have had something to do with the fact that we didn't really want to just ask people for money...tacky, so a "non-coercive" secret campaign ensued. It's a fascinating concept.
After much ado about the original requests for donations to enhance our publications, it was decided that the income from all donations prior to the year 2000 will be permanently restricted and used solely for publications of the Society. All donations to the Endowment Fund after that date will only be restricted if the donor either designates for publications only, or defines another donor restricted purpose. Such restrictions are practical only for very large donations. All other donations to the Endowment will be held in the Endowment Fund, preserving the principal in perpetuity, and following the granting guidelines, professionally developed by our Endowment team, consisting of many professionals, all doing pro bono work for the Society. Particular thanks goes out to Committee Chair Bill Mangels, attorney-committee-member Jeff Cheyne, and our accountant Tom Martin for laboriously bringing us to a strong and stable place where we can feel confident to make generous donations for the assurance of a healthy future for the ARS - the Endowment Fund of the American Rhododendron Society.