The Parable of the Mustard Seed: A Founder’s Statement of Intent

I have yet to meet a donor or founder of a charitable foundation who said, “When I started out my goal was to make a lot of money so I could give it away.”

When I began to realize that I was accumulating more money than I needed, or could reasonably spend, I started to plan to use it to help others.

Why? Because of my upbringing – the love, caring and sharing experience from my family, my church and the Christian way of life and what it teaches about service to others, and people like Mother Moon, a neighbor who cared for and about me and my siblings while we were growing up after our mother died.

I set up the foundation in 1986 to “park” up to 50 percent of my income each year while I was deciding where He wanted me to put it to use helping those in need.

My original intent? To do good – whatever that means…

A Family Affair

By inviting my children, Bill and Jane, and later their spouses, Nancy and Bob, to help in finding worthy causes for the funds generated by the foundation investments, I also visualized it as an opportunity to draw our widespread family closer together.

As the foundation and our roles in it have evolved, we have become aware of and sensitive to our diverse interests and values, which can offer challenges as well as opportunities to us as a family.

My intent has evolved from just “doing good” to the creation of our current mission statement:

“To carry on the Leighty family legacy of service and stewardship by leveraging our time and talents, as well as our financial resources primarily in the areas of science and the environment, energy, education, spirituality, women’s interests, human population, peacemaking, and the promotion of philanthropy and volunteerism.”

Considering the Sunset Option

When we first started, Bill posed the question, “There is so much need out there, why don’t we give it all away – put it in the hands of those who can place it where it will do the most good now?”

Good question! I would suggest it be posed and answered at the start of every annual meeting of The Leighty Foundation. We should always be willing to consider a sunset date for the foundation as an alternative to maintaining it in perpetuity.

I believe the Lord entrusted me with the stewardship of this portion of His great bounty to give me a challenge and opportunity to use it to develop and practice my concern for others – to use me to put His arms around those in need. That has become my intent.

I have invited my family to participate in the stewardship of this challenge and opportunity. Notice that it is not the H.D. Leighty Foundation – it is The Leighty (Family) Foundation.

In joining me, the family has received the side benefit of the opportunity to work and draw closer together – and to meet and get to know others who are challenged with similar opportunities – a great group of worthwhile people.

Leveraging Time, Talent, and Experience

It is my intent that we make donations and support causes where our comparatively small amounts of money can be used as leverage – seed money – to attract other givers to the cause or project…the Parable of the Mustard Seed!

It is also my intent that we leverage the time, talent and experience we develop in the members of our family to mentor other potential donors as they discover the joy of giving of their share of His great bounty – to help them establish and grow their own family philanthropy.

I would like us to be “philanthropic missionaries” and regularly allocate a portion of our funds to emphasize and support that part of our mission.

My family is my #1 interest!

I hope that they grow together as stewards of all our family gene pools as well as the foundation. If at some time in the future, the operation and administration of the foundation should be in danger of splitting the family apart, it would be my intention that the foundation and the stewardship of its assets be given to an independent agency such as the Community Foundation of Waterloo and Northeast Iowa to administer. I have full confidence in my family’s ability to choose wisely regarding the health of the family, and the stewardship of the foundation.