Christel DeHaan foundation distributes $55M as it ceases operations

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The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra received a $2.75 million gift from the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation that will allow the orchestra to add performances to its schedule. (Photo courtesy of ICO)

As anniversary presents go, the largest financial grant in Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra history arrived as the organization launched its 40th season.

The gift of $2.75 million was part of the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation’s work this year to spend itself down to zero. The entirety of the foundation’s financial resources, or $55 million, has been distributed in the form of legacy grants to arts organizations, the University of Indianapolis and not-for-profits focused on military families, former prison inmates, HIV prevention and animal conservation.

The completion of grantmaking, also known as “sunsetting,” was a 2014 directive set by Christel DeHaan—the Indianapolis businesswoman, philanthropist and community leader who died in 2020 at age 77. She left instructions for the foundation’s board to donate the money three years after her death.

Melynne Klaus

Melynne Klaus, director of the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation since 2006, said the legacy grants will seed 13 new endowments and grow 18 existing endowments. Although the foundation is ceasing operations, funds are in place to make a lasting effect.

The $2.75 million given to the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra is identical to grants received by Newfields, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Indiana Repertory Theatre, a trio of A-list arts organizations in the city.

However, the chamber orchestra’s annual operating budget of $917,000 is roughly 5% the size of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s budget.

Dana Stone, executive director of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, said the $2.75 million makes it possible to envision more performance dates on the ICO schedule.

Because the group’s musicians are paid per performance and not by salary, an expanded schedule would be welcomed, Stone said, and also raise the profile of the orchestra.

“This gift is a magnificent milestone for our organization and a true capstone of her philanthropy,” she said.

Stone said DeHaan supported ICO, founded as “Musicians of the Cloister” in 1984, since the early 1990s.

DeHaan, who grew up in Germany and moved to the United States in 1962, co-founded Resort Condominiums International in 1974 and built it into one of the largest time-share exchange companies in the world.

She sold the company for $825 million in 1996.

The Christel DeHaan Family Foundation was established in 1997. Across 27 years of giving, the foundation administered more than $133 million in grants.

DeHaan established not-for-profit Christel House International in 1998.

Christel House International operates K-12 public charter schools in high-poverty areas. The organization has two academies and two dropout-recovery schools in Indianapolis and several schools in India, Jamaica, Mexico and South Africa.

While the family foundation is closing its doors, a not-for-profit known as Endless Success Foundation continues to assist Christel House International. DeHaan’s estate created the Endless Success Foundation to pay for Christel House’s overhead expenses in perpetuity.

Amir Pasic

Amir Pasic, dean of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said the concept of sunsetting a foundation can be tied to a donor’s desire to maintain consistency in support for specific causes.

“What donors often want to do is make sure that funds are distributed according to what their wishes are,” Pasic said. “They want to be as close to that as possible.”

Klaus, the family foundation director, offered a quote from DeHaan herself to illustrate the philanthropist’s affection for the arts:

“Enabling creativity and artistic expression to flourish is an important investment in our culture and quality of life. Wonderful works of art nurture our spirit and provide an opportunity to celebrate the human spirit of creativity. Art in its various forms delights our senses, causes us to reflect, sometimes makes us question and often creates in us a humble appreciation for the talents of the artist.”

The largest legacy grant was given to the University of Indianapolis. A sum of $4.12 million will support the school’s Center for Global Engagement ($3 million) and the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center ($1.12 million).

DeHaan, who took business classes at the school when it was known as Indiana Central University, served as board chair for the University of Indianapolis for a decade.

Tanuja Singh

No individual has donated more money to the school than DeHaan, who donated more than $10 million before her death.

“Almost every facet of university life has been touched by Christel, and we are honored to have been selected by the foundation for this legacy grant to help support the two areas that she supported greatly over the years, the arts and international engagement,” said Tanuja Singh, president of UIndy, in a written statement.

During an IBJ interview, Singh said the university’s Center for Global Engagement is valuable in attracting and retaining students.

“Research has consistently supported that this global experience—whether it’s in the form of study abroad, service abroad or students coming here and learning from others—is one of the high-impact learning practices,” said Singh, noting that 70 countries are represented among UIndy students and faculty members.

Philanthropist Christel DeHaan set the directive in 2014 that her family foundation would “sunset” three years after her death. (Photo courtesy of the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation)

More than the arts

Rhiannon Edwards

Rhiannon Edwards, executive director of PACE, or Public Advocates in Community re-Entry, said DeHaan had a long history of anonymously donating money to the organization that assists former prison inmates.

“We knew she was supporting us, but the world did not know she was supporting us,” Edwards said. “One of the first things we told her we needed assistance with was transportation, because that’s always a barrier when people are getting out.”

A portion of the proceeds from PACE’s endowment draw will be used to finance bus tickets, gas cards and ride-share trips, Edwards said.

It was gratifying, she said, to see PACE listed alongside arts organizations receiving legacy grants.

“It made us feel like [DeHaan] must have really felt it in her heart to steer away from her normal areas to support us,” Edwards said. “It definitely was impactful for us as an organization.”

The $2.75 million given to PACE is identical to grants received by Operation Homefront, which supports military families, and Step Up Inc., an HIV-prevention organization.

“Christel was a multidimensional philanthropist,” Klaus said. “You see the interest in education and helping with poverty not limiting the potential of children here and around the world through Christel House International and Christel House Indianapolis.

“The arts were very much a priority focus. But she understood and saw an opportunity in supporting a wide range of organizations in our community. She often said, ‘To whom much is given much is expected.’”

DeHaan’s name will be more prevalent in the city, thanks to the family foundation’s final round of grants.

PACE plans to shift its headquarters in January to 1314 N. Meridian St., where the space will be known as Christel DeHaan Turning Point Plaza. The Center for Global Engagement at UIndy, 1400 E. Hanna St., will be renamed the Christel DeHaan Center for Global Engagement, and the IndyFringe complex of performance spaces, 719 E. St. Clair St., will become the Christel DeHaan Studio Theatres.

Among roles adding “Christel DeHaan” to their titles: curator at the Harrison Center for the Arts and artistic director at the American Pianists Association.

Klaus said DeHaan wasn’t motivated by public recognition.

“She was more attuned to helping each organization and being a collaborative partner as a philanthropist,” Klaus said. “She was not a donor who was actively seeking naming during her life span.”

The family foundation’s board, Klaus said, had a different priority during the sunsetting process.

“We felt it was important to allow these organizations to receive the support and see how her name might live on in a meaningful way,” she said.

Continued support

UIndy President Singh said the endowment draw will be crucial to the future of the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, which hosts more than 100 performances per semester.

“You have these buildings, and then you need maintenance and upkeep, beautifying of it and making sure the bills get paid,” Singh said. “This grant will cover the operational expenses.”

Meanwhile, the endowment remains intact.

“Over time, if the markets continue to do well, we would hope the endowment supports us in perpetuity,” Singh said.

Chris Williams

Chris Williams, who began his tenure as American Pianists Association CEO in July, said his organization’s endowment draw will equal the amount of the annual operating gift the APA previously received from the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation.

“That’s highly meaningful to us, of course, and will support our mission for years to come,” Williams said.

Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra leader Stone said the grant is spurring purposeful conversations at her organization.

“Because it’s such a significant gift, it will help us strategize a little bit differently how we’re going to use restricted endowments,” Stone said. “They may be for special projects or positioning for long-term investments. The cost of living and cost of performing will only increase, so we want to be strategic about how we utilize the percentage that we have available to us.”

At the same time, Stone encouraged the general public to consider donations to arts organizations.

“I think it’s important for people to realize that, yes, a $50 donation still makes an impact on an organization like us,” she said. “These gifts compound and make a difference. There are very few people who can make a gift like Christel was able to do in her lifetime. But that shouldn’t discourage a donor who is compelled because of the work we’re doing.”

Pasic, dean of the IU School of Philanthropy, said prospective wealthy funders can look to DeHaan’s work as an example.

“I think it’s a question of listening, becoming part of the community and making ongoing, sustained investments the community comes to appreciate over time,” Pasic said. “I think [DeHaan] certainly did that. She leaves a wonderful example of what an engaged philanthropist can accomplish in the city and its artistic and social infrastructure.

“Hopefully, others will see it and be inspired by it. There’s an opportunity to follow in her footsteps but, of course, modify what she’s done to fit their own specific values and their own specific interests.”•

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