For Dave and Jean Ann Berlin of Hudson, Michigan, making their community a better place was a little more difficult than they imagined.
They wanted to help fund projects in their community and even quietly solicited for projects that might need some financial help. "But it was harder than we thought. This community pulls together and most of the projects we looked at were already completed. Others that we thought of were already financially taken care of," says Dave, president of Alumi-Span Inc. of Pittsfield, Michigan.
When Dave sold The Metalloy Corporation in 1989, the family decided some of the proceeds should be given to charity. "I soon realized I could not do this alone. I needed help."
That year the family established the Berlin Family Fund, a Donor Advised Fund, at the Toledo Community Foundation. The Fund's advisors include Dave and Jean Ann and their three children, Aaron, Amy and Chelsey.
"We had lots of offers for tax dodges after the sale but we wanted to invest in philanthropy. The Donor Advised Fund at the Foundation offers us the flexibility we were looking for with enough liberties to fund charities," says Dave.
The Berlins utilize the research services of the Foundation to make the most impact with their charitable giving. "It is not possible to know exactly what every charity needs. We trust the Foundation to help us with this," he adds.
The Foundation, based upon research conducted on nonprofit agencies, then makes suggestions for funding to the Berlins.
"Charities' needs change from year to year and we can't keep up with that. We trust and depend on the Foundation to do this for us. The staff prepares a list of charities that we might fund and then we talk about it and make our recommendations," he continues.
The Foundation also prepares reports on how the Berlin's funds have been used by charities. "This helps us to know that the gifts have been used to the best of our intentions.
"The investment performance of our fund has been pretty good. We've been able to maintain our initial investment and make a difference," he adds.
For Jean Ann, the reward has been being able to help people. The couple is not interested in having their name in lights for their efforts. "We can be anonymous in our giving because often we direct that the Foundation be listed as the donor," she says.
"Some people have big houses or big yachts. But how many of those things does anyone need? Those things are not important to us. Helping our community is," adds Jean Ann.
"For us the Foundation has done everything it said it would do. It has a sound reputation and we trust it. We couldn't be happier with what we have been able to do and hope to do for years to come," concludes Dave.