What is the County Endowment Fund?

The County Endowment Fund is a state-funded program with the goal of encouraging and supporting philanthropy in Iowa by providing financial assistance to a large number of Community Foundations or Community Affiliate Organizations around the state. The dollars distributed in this program come from the state's gaming tax revenues and will be available on a yearly basis, unless and until the legislation is revised. In order to receive these funds, the entity must be a Community Foundation that meets National Standards for Community Foundations, or a Community Affiliate Organization that has affiliated with such a Foundation. In addition, the entity must serve a geographic area that encompasses at least an entire county.  The only county areas that are not eligible to receive County Endowment Funds are those counties that have a state-licensed gaming license.


How much is available through this program?

Approximately eight-tenths of 1% of the state's gaming tax revenues are allocated to support the County Endowment Fund Program annually. Contact your local community foundation to determine how much grant funding is available on an annual basis.


What happens when the Community Foundation and/or Community Affiliate Organization receives the funds?

House File 2302 of the 2004 Session makes it clear that 25% of the funds are to be retained in a "permanent endowment fund" for the benefit of charitable organizations within that specific county. The permanent endowment fund will be invested and no more than 5% of the permanent endowment fund is to be granted in any given year (This is a legal requirement of such a fund, and is meant to ensure that it can continue to grow in size over time, rather than being spent down to a zero balance.)


The remaining 75% of the funds are to be distributed as grants to "charitable organizations for charitable purposes" according to the law.  The law defines a charitable purpose as one "described in section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, or a benevolent, educational, philanthropic, humane, scientific, patriotic, social welfare or advocacy, public health, environmental conservation, civic, or other eleemosynary objective." The distribution of these grants should occur by December of the following year.


Questions have been raised as to whether any of these funds could be used for "organizational support" for the foundation itself. The Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Council of Foundations have suggested a guideline of no more than 5% of the grant funding should be used for "philanthropic promotion" by the Community Foundation and/or Community Affiliate Organization. "Philanthropic Promotion" might include items such as administrative or training purposes, organizational planning, board education and training, outreach, needs assessments, etc.  If the Community Foundation and/or Community Affiliate Organization wishes to use any of the County Endowment Funds for such purposes, the 5% should be figured on and come from the 75% allotment for grantmaking. Finally, if an organization does decide to use any of the funds for such purposes, they should request the funding through their normal application and grant-making process so there is complete documentation regarding the proposed uses of the funds as well as the opportunity to consider all funding requests on the same merit. 


Who is administering the County Endowment Fund Program?

The County Endowment Fund Program is being administered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority with assistance from the Iowa Council of Foundations.