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Hotka and Meyer see many advantages to creating a DAF

couple with short hair smiling at camera
Jill Meyer & Louise Hotka at the Women’s Foundation’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, 2023.

Louise Hotka grew up on her family’s farm near Iowa City. After her parents died, the farm was bequeathed in equal parts to Louise and her four siblings. One brother died, and the remaining siblings did not want to farm the land or jointly manage it, so they sold it.

Then the question emerged for Louise—what to do with her inheritance? This question faces many boomers and Gen Xers. A massive wealth transfer estimated at $43 trillion is underway as parents from the previous generation bequeath assets to family members and favorite charities.

Along with her spouse Jill Meyer, Louise decided to use part of her inheritance to create a donor advised fund (DAF) at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota (WFM). A DAF is a charitable account that allows donors to make grant recommendations to their favorite nonprofit organizations.

Both women already had a long connection with WFM as donors for 22 consecutive years, and Jill worked for several years for WFM as a database consultant. They have come to know and trust WFM, and enjoyed a close friendship with Lee Roper-Batker, former president and CEO of WFM. They had given smaller annual gifts for years to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and other favorite organizations. Suddenly, they could do more.

Many aspects of DAFs appealed to them. One is simplicity. Donors can give a sizeable gift to their DAF, and then later recommend other nonprofits as grant recipients from the invested fund. Recommending grant recipients can happen when convenient for the donor. Establishing the DAF simplifies making charitable gifts and claiming charitable tax deductions.

Jill explains, “2022 was a terrible year for us. Louise had a third recurrence of cancer, her brother died, and a close friend of ours died. When Louise’s inheritance came through, we didn’t have the energy to figure out immediately what charitable organizations we wanted to benefit. We could simply set up the DAF and make further decisions about it later.”

They both appreciated the level of trust they felt in WFM to manage the gift well and to work with them to choose worthy grant recipients. “We wouldn’t know about a lot of the small charities doing good work in the community,” Louise says. “The foundation collects information and can judge the efficacy of an emerging nonprofit, how the charity is meeting a need, and if that organization is likely to persist.”

“We met with Polina Montes de Oca, a WFM gift officer, and told her the kinds of causes we like to benefit—justice for American Indians, the environment, the arts, homelessness, food insecurity, and programs for women and girls,” Jill says. “We like to give to small nonprofits because if we give $500 or $1,000, we think that size gift means more to them than to organizations with multi-million-dollar budgets. Polina offered ideas, and we contributed our ideas, too. She helped us choose worthy grant recipients that fit our interests.”

Louise knew that her family’s farmland had once belonged to Native people, and she wanted to benefit them through the sale of the land. Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center was one grant recipient benefitting from their DAF.

Among the 12 other organizations receiving a grant from Louise and Jill’s DAF in 2023 was Cookie Cart, which “teaches life, leadership, and employment skills to teens of color.” The couple not only supports the mission but values a personal connection—Louise’s aunt, Sister Jean Thuerauf, now deceased, founded Cookie Cart.

Jill and Louise have been partners since 1986 and married in 2013 when Minnesota law began to recognize same-sex marriages. Now retired, Louise worked many years with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, where she did sampling and field data collection and analysis related to rivers and streams. Previously she worked with the U.S. Geological Survey. Jill began her career in social work, then shifted to computer programming primarily at St. Paul Companies. She later worked for the Resource Center of the Americas and then Minneapolis Institute of Art before becoming a database consultant.

Louise and Jill prioritize charitable giving in their financial life together. Louise said, “We are in a position to do this, so we should. I wish the idea of ‘little people’ philanthropy were more practiced and lifted up.” They target giving away 15 percent of their income each year. Jill said, “When we add the grants given out from our DAF to our year-to-year annual support for charities, our impact in the community can be greater.”

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