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Estate of grace

Sat., Feb. 20, 2010

Donor-advised funds involve the whole family in deciding how to dole out inheritance money

Roger Crawford and his wife, Mona, are both 76. The college sweethearts have been married 57 years.

They built two well-known Spokane businesses, Thermoguard Insulation Co. and Thermoguard Equipment Inc.

They also worked hard growing a family – one daughter, two sons, three grandsons, four great-grandchildren and another on the way.

“When you’re in business, you spend all your time trying to make it succeed,” Crawford said. “And if you succeed, you’ve got this pile of money and you ask yourself: ‘What good is this?’

“One day, we were sitting in the living room with a couple of grandsons, and we had a discussion about what to do with it.”

Those discussions led to their recent decision to set up an endowed “donor-advised” fund through Inland Northwest Community Foundation. Every year, a portion of the earnings on the $1.9 million Roger and Mona Crawford Family Foundation will be distributed in support of worthy community causes.

Crawford family members will decide and recommend – together – how the money will be distributed.

The Crawfords are part of a larger inheritance trend in the United States that is building momentum as baby boomers come into inheritances from their parents.

Older adults with a solid financial foundation still want to pass some of the money onto their boomer children and grandchildren, but they also want to pass on values of philanthropy. Family-advised funds are one way to do this.

“We don’t want to ruin our children by giving them everything,” explained Mark Hurtubise, president and CEO of the Inland Northwest Community Foundation.

“So there are more and more families (setting up) donor-advised funds. The founders recommend grants. They are able to have the joy of giving while they are alive.”

The Inland Northwest Community Foundation covers 10 Eastern Washington counties and 10 North Idaho counties. It manages more than 285 funds valued at more than $55 million and has given out $37 million in grants and scholarships since its founding in 1974.

The Crawfords will refer most donation requests to the foundation, because it has the staff and resources to research the credibility of charitable organizations.

Despite building two of Spokane’s most successful businesses, the Crawfords are intensely private people. They agreed to talk about their newly established fund to spread the word that family-guided philanthropy can be part of the mix in an inheritance plan, no matter your income level.

The donor-advised endowed funds managed by the foundation range from $5,000 to “into the millions,” Hurtubise said.

These funds help family members keep in touch, because they recommend together how to distribute interest from the funds. They do this by e-mail, phone or in person, and often in the process share stories of those who left the legacy.

The Crawford family stories include memories of the Great Depression. Crawford’s father built a poultry business in North Spokane, as well as a home near Audubon Park. The Depression obliterated both.

Roger met Mona while both were students at Washington State University. They scraped by early in their marriage while Roger attended college during the week and commuted on weekends to Spokane for his home-insulation work.

“Our first child was born in Pullman,” he said. “We had a mobile home there. The wind blew there like crazy. In fact, it blew over our sleeping shack one day.”

Said Mona: “The work ethic translated down to us, and we communicated it to our children.”

The Crawfords appreciate, however, how hard economic times can override hard work, placing families in need of food, shelter and the kindness of community.

“This enables us to get help with where to channel funds,” Crawford said. “It’s difficult for us to know what organization is deserving. Making money is one thing. Putting it to good use is another.”

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