Cunningham: Small donations spark big change

Five percent. A seemingly insignificant amount. Less than sales tax. Less than a typical religious tithe. And yet, 5 percent could alter the entire social, educational, economic and philanthropic landscape of our community forever.

Clark County, like every other county in Kentucky, is teetering on the precipice of the greatest transfer of wealth our nation has ever seen. As one generation passes, the wealth that was made in the community (and because of the community) also passes.

This transfer is often accompanied by outward migration. Money is made, families are raised, friendships are formed and then time passes on. That money passes on. A for-sale sign is placed in the front yard, and a generation’s legacy is packed in the back of a U-Haul and driven across county lines.

But what if just 5 percent were left in the community, for the community?

The Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative conducted a transfer of wealth study in Kentucky in 2017. This in-depth study looked at the net worth of our counties and the expected changes over the next 10, 20 and 50 years.

The conclusion: Every county in Kentucky has wealth transferring from one generation to the next, and every county in Kentucky can benefit from capturing just 5 percent of the transfer.

Just imagine, if every Clark Countian thought of the community as an heir and left 5 percent of his or her estate. By 2036, $100 million could be added to a permanent charitable endowment fund, which could grant out $5 million every single year, in perpetuity.

What could Clark County do with $5 million in grant funds every year? The possibilities are endless.

The Clark County Community Foundation, an affiliate of Blue Grass Community Foundation, has a charitable endowment fund in place that provides grants to make Clark County a more generous, vibrant and engaged community.

Each year, a board of local residents from Clark County oversees the distribution of grants from the fund. Grant amounts and recipients fluctuate as needs and opportunities arise, but despite the name on the check, the purpose is always the same: to create a positive benefit for those who live, work and play in Clark County.

What’s the beauty in giving 5 percent? It is the great equalizer. My 5 percent is different than your 5 percent, but it is still 5 percent. Give to your family; give to your friends; give to the specific causes and organizations that have had an impact on your life; but also consider giving to your community to benefit the greatest needs and most exciting opportunities as they arise.

The Clark County Community Foundation was established by a local group of citizens in 1998. Because of generous lifetime and legacy estate gifts, the foundation has been able to award more than $4 million to charitable organizations and causes in our community.

Halee Cunningham is a Clark County native and serves as gift planning officer/deputy counsel for Blue Grass Community Foundation and administrator for Clark County Community Foundation. For additional information about Clark County Community Foundation, or lifetime and estate giving, contact Halee at