Financial strategies help boost scholarships in Brunswick County

The Kiwanis Club of Southport-Oak Island has a tradition of community service, with an emphasis on supporting students and education in Brunswick County. But in recent years the club’s members have redoubled their efforts and make greater use of investing tools to achieve their goals.

Annually, the club has raised more than $90,000 to support youth in Brunswick County and internationally and has awarded up to $25,000 in scholarships to deserving students. It has improved the lives of thousands of children through reading programs, tutoring, mentoring, academic recognition, career counseling, leadership development, character building, nutrition, foster care support and health care.

But in an era of increasing college expenses and widespread needs, the club began taking steps to do more. In 2003 the club created the Kiwanis Club of Southport-Oak Island Foundation, which offered tax benefits to donors as a 501(c)3.

The establishment of the foundation meant funds like membership dues that are used to pay the club’s operating expenses were now distinct from contributions for community programs and scholarships. Since those donations went straight to the foundation, businesses and community members could use them as a tax write-off, potentially increasing both contribution amounts and frequency.

Nearly 20 years later, in 2022, the club took its support for scholarships to the next level by creating the Ryan Scholarship Fund, an endowment that would be invested through the North Carolina Community Foundation so that the earnings could fund additional scholarships for students in Brunswick County. 

“With the cost of college these days, we wanted to be able to add scholarships and increase the amount of the scholarships,” said Peggy McDonald, treasurer for the Kiwanis Club of Southport Oak Island. “In talking that through, we wanted to see if there was a way to invest some of the funds that we bring in and keep them separate, just for scholarships.”

That’s when they began thinking about an endowment for scholarships. 

A few years ago, a member gave the Kiwanis a $5,000 donation to start this endowment. In subsequent years, more donations came into the endowment until the fund reached $40,000—enough to be invested with NCCF. The endowment continues to grow as more donations come in.

There was an additional benefit to creating the endowment.

“Our agreement with the North Carolina Community Foundation specifies that should our club go out of existence, the funds in the foundation would continue to fund scholarships for students in Brunswick County,” said McDonald. “We wanted to be able to have something that was out there, hopefully in perpetuity, to help fund and continue to fund scholarships for Brunswick County students.”

“We’re trying to encourage more students in Brunswick County to go to college,” she said. “And because of the cost of college, providing scholarship funds is important.”

The Kiwanis Club of Southport-Oak Island offers nearly a dozen scholarships:

The broader vision is that the scholarships will help not just individual students but the Brunswick community.

“Hopefully these students will come back (from college or trade school) or they’ll stay in the community and work in the community in jobs that help the community grow,” said McDonald.

It’s already happening. Several years ago, McDonald’s husband was having knee surgery and a young hospital worker came into the room and greeted him by name. She had received a scholarship from Kiwanis years ago and remembered him. The scholarship had fulfilled its promise.