Innovative Thinkers

Innovative Giving
When the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation was established in 1978, its seven founders firmly believed that philanthropy was something everyone should be involved in, not just a select few. 
Since its inception, the foundation has remained focused on honoring its founders and their commitment to a donor-focused model. Its innovative approach to increasing charitable giving, connecting donors and leading on community issues quickly earned the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation its reputation as the most entrepreneurial community foundation in the country. 
Today, Laura McKnight, president and CEO of one of the 10 largest community foundations in the country, not only embraces the belief of the seven founders, but also acts on the foundation’s mission. 
McKnight, who spent her career working as a tax attorney, joined the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation in 2001. Serving in a variety of roles throughout the years, she became the president and CEO of the foundation in 2006. Initially drawn into this line of work by a constant desire to help, McKnight wanted to give people the means to make any gift they wanted because, as she firmly believes, every dollar makes a difference. 
The mission of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation spoke directly to her drive. 
As a national pioneer in developing a better way of giving, the foundation has separated itself from other charities. Donors who choose the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation get the best of both worlds. They receive the tax advantages of a public charity as well as the personal recognition, involvement and flexibility found in a private foundation. 
With determination to make every aspect of giving more satisfying, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation keeps its focus on its four core values– integrity, respect, passion and innovation. 
“Innovation in philanthropy is particularly exciting because nowhere can innovation push the envelope further than in the nonprofit sector,” says McKnight.
To that end, The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation was not only the first to introduce an online tool for gathering philanthropic information, but also the first to offer a giving card. 
By offering automated charitable giving and implementing an online outlet for donations, visitors to the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation Web site can set up a donation fund of their own, contribute to their fund or someone else’s and make donations to nonprofit organizations as well. The site also allows visitors to buy or redeem a giving card. Putting a spin on the traditional gift card, a giving card gives the recipient the option to donate the value of the card to a public charity of their choice. These are just a few more ways in which the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation makes sure every philanthropic investment made has the greatest return and benefit. 
“Whether the foundation is serving as the back office for a corporate foundation, helping a donor complete a gift of real estate or giving a family the tools to organize its giving, an unwavering commitment to donor service inspires our team to find a solution even under the most complex charitable circumstances,” McKnight says. 
Most believe that a downturn in the economy would equate to a decline in donation, but contrary to popular belief, McKnight is finding instead, that more people are asking the question, “Am I doing this the best way I can?” 
Throughout the past 10 years, there has been a 43 percent increase in giving nationwide, and Kansas City alone has seen an astonishing rise in philanthropy with an increase of 128 percent. 
“The pages of the foundation’s annual report are filled with family names that appear on buildings, the names of your next door neighbors and no names at all where donors have chosen to be anonymous,” McKnight says. “Whether it is $25, $25,000 or $25 million, every gift makes a difference.” 
With an obligation to let people know that the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation is a resource worth considering when making a donation, McKnight claims her biggest challenge over the years has been getting the word out–an obstacle McKnight has worked hard to overcome. 
“The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation thrives because of our region’s rich tradition of civic pride and generosity,” she says. “The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation’s billion dollars are spread among nearly 2,300 separate funds established by individuals, families and businesses to pursue charitable priorities that are most important to them – in Kansas City and beyond.”
words: Devin Maxey