Engaging the Family In Giving

Robert and Anne Woodbury and their grandchildrenSitting in their cozy home overlooking Harpswell Sound, Robert and Anne Woodbury muse over a life of service: Bob in higher education, Anne, first as an elementary school teacher, later as a hospital chaplain, and most recently, as an author (she wrote and illustrated The Box Lady, a children's book about recycling, which has been translated into Navaho and been used to encourage recycling programs in schools across the world).

In their respective careers, the Woodburys have known what it's like to try to raise money. As president of the University of Southern Maine and later chancellor of the University of Maine System, Bob frequently found himself in an asking position. Anne, who served on the board of the Bangor Theological Seminary after obtaining her Master of Theological Studies degree, has also had to raise money.

In recent years, the Woodburys have, for the most part, traded asking for giving--and finding creative ways to give is an ongoing passion (they once managed to donate a pair of cemetery plots to help launch a local education fund). The couple has also engaged their grandchildren, ranging in age from youngsters to a high school senior, in giving. Each year, they decide how to give away a small cache of money, usually choosing three charities, always close to home. Frequently, it is the Yarmouth-based Safe Passage, which helps destitute Guatemalan children obtain food and education, or a homeless shelter, or an organization geared to helping animals.

As another creative philanthropic act, the Woodburys long ago decided to create a donor-advised fund, recognizing that by putting their capital in the hands of investment experts, they could better leverage their own money. Fidelity initially managed their fund, but after moving to Maine, they transferred it to the Maine Community Foundation.

Why the Maine Community Foundation? "It’s all in the name," the Woodburys say. To begin with, there's the "Maine" part. Since the couple moved to the state in 1979, they have focused most of their giving on Maine, frequently through programs with which they are very familiar.

The "Foundation" part of the name is the management--the effectiveness of the organization in making the most of the couple’s charitable resources. Because MaineCF's reach encompasses the entire state, Bob adds, it allows people with similar priorities to work together, making the funds much more effective.

And then there's the final, all-important element in the foundation's name: "Community."

"The mission of the foundation is to help build stronger communities in Maine," says Bob; "We support that." He and Anne are also impressed with how the foundation doesn't make assumptions, but rather listens to what's happening within communities, working locally to address their needs. "The key is leadership," he says; "people at the county level will know who the real leaders are."

The Woodburys continue to support higher education, but they also keep donating to their fund at the foundation, encouraging its growth. Recently, they decided to contribute Anne's life insurance policy to it. Says Anne, "It's a whole-life policy, it's growing in value, and it will go to the Maine Community Foundation," hopefully after it has had many more years of growth.

That the Woodburys have shared their values became obvious a few years ago, when they asked their three children what they should plan to do with their MaineCF fund after their deaths. The children definitely wanted to be involved, so the fund will continue to be advised by the next generation of Woodburys--and continue to give long into the future.