Highland Lakes Legacy Fund

Creating Long-Term Income Streams for Nonprofits


The most challenging role for most nonprofits is fundraiser. And most nonprofit organizations in the Highland Lakes area, whether their annual budget is a few thousand or hundreds of thousands of dollars, start with a zero balance each year.

With no predictable source of income, they must expend enormous resources on fundraising, grantwriting, and fighting for their share of a dwindling supply of public funds and donations.

That's where the Highland Lakes Legacy Fund comes in. The Marble Falls Independent School District joined with the Seriff Foundation in 2005 to try and eliminate this problem, by establishing a family of funds that would take a long-term view, over years and even decades in which a community foundation could be built up to create substantial endowments that would provide usable, ongoing income streams for area nonprofits.

The Seriff Foundation presented a grant proposal to Austin Community Foundation on behalf of the local Boys and Girls Club, and this led to a relationship between the two entities which resulted in the Highland Lakes Legacy Fund setting up through ACF.

"There were many efficiencies to be gained by going through ACF," says Midge Dockery. "Since its formation in 1977, ACF has maintained a great track record managing a multitude of distinct funds. ACF’s average return on investment has consistently outperformed the market."

Establishing the Legacy Fund under ACF provided access to experienced back-office services, program collaboration, professional and legal expertise, investment services and challenge grants. The Legacy Fund works with individuals and their estate planning teams to explore asset donation, life insurance and IRA beneficiary designations, and other bequests that will go into its family of nonprofit organizations, creating endowments, pass-through and donor-directed funds those organizations can rely on for long-term, ongoing income. Legacy also manages scholarship funds and teacher enrichment grants within the Marble Falls school district.

"Very few organizations who raise funds can afford to take a $10,000 donation and put it into an endowment that, in the current year, will only produce $500 in useable cash," Dockery says. "It takes many years and substantial funds to make a dent in the funding requirements."

The long-term goal of the Legacy Fund is to eliminate much of the need for nonprofit fundraising from scratch every year. To accomplish this, the Fund will need an unrestricted base in excess of $30 million. Dockery notes that accomplishing this goal will take many years, but can definitely not be reached without a major coordinated effort.

"Through its relationship with ACF, The Legacy Fund continues to grow and provide services to area nonprofits and donors. It has been a positive, progressive relationship from the word go!"

Since its establishment in November 2005, the Legacy Fund has administered more than $3 million in nonprofit grants and $830,000 in scholarships. Many of these are projects and events that are too small or short-term to go through the expense and red-tape of forming their own nonprofits. Through ACF, the Legacy Fund is able to extend nonprofit status and fiscal sponsorship to these organizations. One example of this has been to keep the Highland Lakes annual Fourth of July celebration going. Another came in June 2007 when flash flooding hit Marble Falls, and the Legacy Fund was able to establish the Burnet County Flood Relief Fund, collecting outside contributions and grants in order to administer aid requests to individuals quickly.

"ACF is a valuable partner helping us connect organizations, families and individuals to local causes and needs," Dockery says. "It is a trusted advisor and a stimulus for philanthropy. Because of ACF’s history and track record, the Legacy Fund has a stable and sustainable foundation."

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