By JACK WEATHERLY
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So goes the axiom.
Yet that leaves open the possibility that it can be true.
The seven community foundations of Mississippi asked the Legislature for $2.5 million in tax credits over five years to start the Endow Mississippi Program.
The full amount was approved in the 2019 session with overwhelming votes in both houses.
“It was an easy sell” to the constituencies, “because it was going to support their communities,” said Jane Alexander, president of the Community Foundation for Mississippi, which serves 22 counties in central and southwest Mississippi.
Mississippi, a poor state, is perennially No. 1 or No. 2 in charitable giving, Alexander noted. While much of that is for churches and synagogues, there are many private charities.
The foundations’ mission is to help those inclined to support their communities develop “a strategy, giving with a plan.”
Applications can be made starting Saturday. the Community Foundation for Mississippi can be reached at (601) 696-3035 or formississippi.org. The deadline is the end of September. (See all seven foundations listed in separate article.)
The minimum annual gift to an existing endowed fund is $1,000. The maximum amount is $200,000. To establish an endowed fund, $25,000 is the minimum, though that can be done in increments, she said.
The main role of the foundations is to help those inclined to give back to their communities shape their ideas.
The late John and Lucy Shackelford left $8.8 million – half of their estate – in 2015 to help rebuild the Capitol Street corridor in downtown Jackson, where they spent much of their time during their courting years, and before they accumulated their wealth in the timber and lumber businesses.
The Jackson-based foundation’s board of trustees has put some of that money to use:
» $750,000 to the Museum for Mississippi History, which opened in December 2017.
» 250,000 to the Mississippi Arts Museum renovation.
» $50,000 to the Thalia Mara Hall renovation.
» $180,000 to the Mississippi Museum of Arts.
» $30,000 to Greenwood Cemetery, Jackson.
» $150,000 to Operation Shoestring for children in downtown and midtown.
Gifts to established funds totaled $4.6 million in 2018, according to the Community Foundation for Mississippi, formerly the three-county Community Foundation for Greater Jackson.
Participants are already queuing up like moviegoers and ready to buy a ticket at the box office, Alexander said.
Why the hurry?
One reason is that the balance from the starting $500,000 is not carried over to the next year, Alexander said.
“We’re going to exhaust that pool,” she said. That has been the case in states on which Mississippi modeled its legislation, which was sponsored by Sen. Joey Fillingane and Rep. Jeffrey Smith, Alexander said.
Time is tight, she said. “The clock started Jan. 1, but . . . [the legislation] wasn’t signed until mid-April and [since] we’ve had to refine the application process . . . we’re going to have six months” ending Dec. 31.
Each of the seven community foundations has been allocated $50,000 in the tax credits, to be awarded by Sept. 30.
That will leave $150,000 up for grabs once the foundations have claimed their share.
“We don’t want to leave any money on the table,” Alexander said.
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