Rallying around charity: Local event teaches next generation the value of giving

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Woodard’s two eldest children, Taylor and T.J., check in new arrivals as other family members slap vinyl decals on the cars lining up along Bearcat Alley for this year’s Van Riper Woodard Family Foundation charity road rally.

Finally, at precisely 8:56 a.m., Woodard waves the green flag for the team from public broadcaster WFYI, which drew the pole position. The other teams depart one by one, every 60 seconds.

For the next eight hours, the competitors will make their way through a 200-mile course that winds southeast along country roads to Batesville and back to Indianapolis. Along the way, they’ll decipher a series of clues in hopes of winning the $10,000 top prize.

But the annual event also has a payoff for Woodard-teaching his family about the importance of philanthropy.

He’s far from alone in trying to instill such values in the younger generation. With studies suggesting a stunning $41 trillion of wealth will transfer from one generation to the next in the coming 50 years, more philanthropists are exploring ways to pass along their ideals as well as their money.

Indeed, family foundations are increasingly common, with as many as 30,000 operating in the United States, according to estimates from the National Center for Family Philanthropy. That’s a big jump from the 18,275 identified by NCFP and the Foundation Center in 1998.

Not-for-profits hoping for a slice of the largesse are responding to the trend, adopting intergenerational strategies so they’ll be ready when potential donors reach that inevitable fork in the road.

Central Indiana Community Foundation, for example, organizes workshops for families to teach young people about the power of giving. Women’s Fund of Central Indiana offers a mother-daughter program at the Julian Center. And Woodard’s foundation puts on the road rally.

Woodard, 57, started the event in 2002 after a trip to New York with The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which he supports. He hopes the rally forges similar bonds among his family and participating charities.

“I became personally involved with the museum,” Woodard said. “That made a difference in my gift giving to them. Passive giving isn’t enough.”

His family is deeply involved in the road rally, choosing the charities invited to participate, spending time with them before, and handing out prize money at an awards dinner they all attend.

The experience has much more impact than simply writing a check, Woodard said.

And they’re off

When the last team leaves the Stutz, Taylor and T.J. and their cousins, Laura and Nan Ruby, pile into their own car to run the course and check the answers. The four, who range in age from 18 to 26, will be back in time for dinner.

Thirteen-year-old Whitney, the youngest of the next-generation Woodards, is already on the road with her mother, Diane, hurrying to beat teams to the first checkpoint. The rally isn’t really a race, but teams stop periodically to get new clues. The one with the most answers at the end wins.

Even so, first-out WFYI wants to stay ahead of the pack. Since its team won the inaugural road rally, newbie driver Michael Sharp and veteran navigator Richard Miles are hot to win again. Maps, binoculars and a camera are within easy reach.

Once they’re cruising east on Interstate 70, Miles reads off the first few clues.

“Shadeland Avenue is exit number what?” he calls out. “Hancock what? What’s the phone number for Mark’s RV?”

Sharp avoids letting his brake lights signal that he has spotted an answer, easing up on the gas as he passes a sign indicating he’s crossed into Hancock County-the answer to one clue.

But the strategy doesn’t always work. He and Miles have to stop and use binoculars to read a phone number on a far-off billboard, and another team pulls up behind. An opponent scribbles on her sheet as she smiles and waves to Miles and Sharp.

Competition is fierce, but friendly.

By the time they get to Whitney and her mom in Rushville, where they must trade their answer sheet for the next list of clues, a half-dozen teams are ahead of them.

Instilling philanthropic values

Breast cancer awareness group Y-Me was among the early leaders, not a huge surprise since it won the rally two years ago. Executive Director Debbie Buckler is optimistic the agency’s participation will continue to pay dividends.

“The donor/donee relationships can become very sterile,” she said. “A more personal relationship can only enhance gift giving.”

If that’s true of not-for-profits’ relationship with existing contributors, it may be even more important with the next generation. Younger donors tend to want more involvement in the causes they support-and may well give to different causes entirely.

Still, experts praise the effort to pass along the spirit of philanthropy.

“It’s easier to teach behavior than try to persuade children to a specific charity,” said Eugene Tempel, executive director of Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. “Very often, parents and children don’t want to support the same things, but that doesn’t make it a failure. Failure would be not passing on philanthropic ideas at all.”

Activities like Woodard’s rally prompt dialogue at the dinner table, which is crucial to getting young people interested, he and others said.

To that end, Indianapolis-based CICF offers a “Family Experience” curriculum, which includes workshops where families work together to complete a set of philanthropy-related exercises.

“It’s developing a giving bent based on the values and interests of people in the family,” said Pam Velo, associate vice president of donor services. “We want families to do these exercises while sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table.”

CICF affiliate Women’s Fund of Central Indiana offers an intergenerational program where mothers and their teen-age daughters pay $250 and spend a day at the Julian Center. At the end of their time at the women’s shelter, the girls determine how to allocate the money they paid to participate.

Woodard’s foundation-backed rally gives his family the chance to practice what he preaches.

“I was awestruck how Turner involves his family in philanthropy,” said Kelly Frank, executive director for rally participant College Mentors for Kids Inc. “Turner could just give the foundation’s money away through the normal grant process.”

Fund-raising consultant Ernest Vargo has seen similar efforts play out through his work at Greenwood-based Johnson Grossnickle and Associates.

He tells the story of a former central Indiana resident who retired a few years ago and now wants to make sure his grown children have learned the value of giving. The man, who doesn’t want to disclose his name, asks his three children to get involved with a charity and then make a presentation to the whole family about why their organization should receive a donation.

“He’s seen his children develop the idea of philanthropy,” Vargo said. “People don’t automatically give like they used to. Philanthropy must be taught in the home.”

Rally results

As Miles and Sharp leave Rushville, their attention turns back to the clues.

“Where is the hog roast held? Oldenburg is known as what?”

They travel winding roads where red, gold and carrot-colored leaves litter yards like confetti. Fields of stubby cornstalks and plowed-under gardens are dotted with poodle-size crows in search of worms and other tasty grub.

After a quick buffet lunch in Batesville, they’re back in the car, heads together as they map out the rest of the course-on to Shelbyville, then back to Indianapolis. They’ve fallen even further behind, but they’re confident in their answers.

More clues are in cemeteries, on fences and hidden behind semi-trucks that likely weren’t parked there when organizers mapped out the course days before.

Finally, the two arrive downtown and spot the final clue atop one of the Stutz buildings.

When the teams gather that evening for dinner, Woodard’s children and nieces announce the winners. Y-Me comes in third, winning $5,000; Near-North Development Corp. takes the $7,500 secondplace prize; and College Mentors for Kids, which missed only 15 of the 200 clues, wins the $10,000.

WFYI missed about 20 clues to finish in the middle of the pack.

The team Laura Ruby invited to compete, Improving Kids’ Environment, comes in fourth. Woodard’s niece is happy, nonetheless, especially since all teams get $1,000.

The 23-year-old learned about environmental causes at a young age and has supported them since. Now she works for Boulder, Colo.-based Clean and Green, a not-for-profit that supports the use of wind power as an energy source.

It’s obvious she learned the day’s lesson long ago.

“I was just always aware of philanthropy growing up,” she said. “It was always just what we did.”

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