Most philanthropists don’t make news headlines with their generosity, but they do make a huge difference in their communities. Jim and Anne Donnellan established their Donnellan Family Fund at the Community Foundation 15 years ago when he was an elementary school principal and she was teaching high school science.
The money came from an inheritance following his mother’s death. Jim said they could have used it to pay some bills but decided to fulfill his father’s wish to create a family foundation with the inheritance to better the community, at least in a small way.
They came upon an approach that allows a modest amount of grant money to have a major impact. Concentrating most of their grants on a small charity with more basic needs made them a big grant fish in that small pond.
For several years they have supported the Appleton Area School District’s Native American Indigenous People Education Day and its Parent Committee from their fund. Federal Title VI requirements say schools must recognize the unique educational needs of this population. Each year, the AASD includes about 115 students who are members of a federally recognized tribe.
Working with Fox Valley Technical College, the district provides academic support and cultural enrichment activities, such as workshops in bead design, drum making and native dance. An Indian Education Liaison serves as a resource for both Native American students and the community.
Jim’s heritage is Irish. He said the Irish suffered some of the same atrocities at the hands of the British as Native American people did from the white settlers, such as denial of their culture and displacement from their land.
The Donnellans learned that the Choctaw tribe in 1847 sent about $5,000 in today’s dollars to support to the Irish people during the potato famine. It was not long after the infamous “Trail of Tears” forced the Choctaw to leave their ancestral lands.
“People who were suffering so much were able to give to others in need,” Jim said. “That part of it spoke to us.” Jim and Anne chose Native American Indigenous People’s Education Day as their way to give back through the Donnellan Family Fund.
Having a donor advised fund in place at the Community Foundation has encouraged the couple’s charitable giving overall, Jim said.
“It keeps giving in the forefront of our mind,” he said. “It makes giving a part of the family budget.”
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