Local club pitches in for charitable investments

Contributors Breakfast Club members Dan Seemuth, left, and Mark Riley.

By Steve Dinnen

Members of the Contributors Breakfast Club could have had their ham and eggs, swapped tales about golf and called it a morning. But soon after forming in 1988, they decided to move beyond networking and see how they might live up to the “contributors” part of their name. They started contributing to community betterment projects through grants to nonprofit organizations.

The idea involves both funding and personal involvement. For example, they financially support Wildwood Hills Ranch, a riding academy in Warren County that works with disadvantaged youth, and also organize an annual obstacle course on the property to raise supporting funds. That hits all three Ts of nonprofit support: time, talent and treasure.

Club members also raise funds from dues and contributions. In 2003, each member pitched in $4,800 to open endowed accounts with the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, which manages their money and disburses funds to causes the club designates. As of January, those accounts had collectively gifted more than $1.7 million, with a remaining balance of $761,000 still on hand.

“You have developed a model to be shared and an impact to be proud of,” foundation president Kristi Knous wrote to the club. “We share your story … when we talk about best practices in charitable giving.”

For the club, best practices focus on a few nonprofits rather than scattering their contributions around town. The club prefers to support smaller organizations, especially those that work with kids at risk.

Members annually decide which groups to support. They make a three-year commitment to the charity, to lessen the disruption of one-off funding. The bulk of their donations currently go to Wildwood Hills Ranch, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Genesis Youth Foundation, which promotes academics, athletics and arts among local immigrant communities.

The club is non-denominational but is guided by its members’ faith.

“CBC is a group of people who try to support organizations that promote Christian values, though having those values is not a stated goal nor a prerequisite for an organization to receive funding,” club member and former president Mark Riley said.

That’s not a bad way to handle breakfast.

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