The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation is a philanthropic organization which provides private support for conservation projects in Montana. We are recognized by the Internal Revenue Service under Section 501(c) (3). The Foundation was created on December 20, 1999. We provide funds where the need is greatest and where private support will make the critical difference in the success of protecting Montana’s rich natural, cultural and recreational resources. The Foundation raises funds to support specific projects in the areas of: habitat conservation and enhancement, fish and wildlife management and research, education and parks and recreation.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation is a private non-profit corporation which is managed by an independent board of directors elected in a manner set forth in the Foundation’s Bylaws. The Foundation has a cooperative and collaborative relationship with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department and raises funds from private sources which benefit the mission of the Department. The Foundation and its Board of Directors review requests for funds from the Department as well as other Montana non-profit organizations and programs annually and funds those projects which have the highest merit and for which there is the greatest need. All transactions conducted between the Foundation and the Department are conducted on an “arm’s length” basis. It is expected that the mutual objective of the Foundation’s and Department’s working relationship will be what is in the best interest of both.
An endowment is defined by Montana law as “a permanent, irrevocable fund that is held by a Montana incorporated or established organization.” An endowment is a fund from which only the earnings on the contributions are available for distribution to support tax-exempt organizations or other charitable purposes.
The Foundation has a number of endowments for which the Foundation functions as a steward of the monies. These endowments are invested and managed professionally consistent to the Bylaws of the Foundation.
Additional information about the Montana Tax Credit may be found at:
The Montana Department of Revenue Form MT-QEC-05 for claiming the Qualified Endowment Credit is available in PDF format here:
Yes. By Montana law, in order for a fund to be considered a “qualified endowment,” the historic value of the fund must be preserved (MCA 15-30-165 (2)(a)). Historic value is the sum of contributions. Preserving historic value is particularly important in Montana, because only donations of planned gifts to a “qualified endowment” qualify the donor for the Montana Charitable Tax Credit. Therefore, we do not make distributions that would take the fund’s balance below historic value. We do make distributions of appreciated value, which is considered principal. Those distributions are made in order to make payments calculated by the Total Return Method.
The endowments are actively managed in compliance with our investment policy, which reflects compliance with Montana law, our view of the financial marketplace and our responsibility to protect and grow principal and to provide for annual distributions. In the simplest terms, our investment goals are:
The balance of all endowment funds is invested in a pool, which is now of sufficient size that it can be managed actively. In other words, the investment pool is managed by institutional fund managers selected by the Foundation in a competitive proposal process. Our fund managers work only with clients that have substantial financial assets, usually a minimum of $5 million to invest. They manage funds for many nonprofits, pension funds and government entities.
Our oversight of managers is rigorous. We employ the services of an independent third-party consultant that has access to daily information about these firms regarding such matters as changes in investments, investment strategies, and management. We also conduct a detailed quarterly analysis of performance of each manager against our benchmarks and against our peers. We know how much of their performance is attributable to market conditions and how much is due to the wisdom of the manager. We know return versus risk of each manager compared with his or her benchmark index. We know about the quality of their investments and how they perform in good and bad markets (their capture ratio). With this information, we monitor performance against the requirements and goals of our investment policy. When managers do not comply with our policy, our relationship is terminated and new managers are hired.
Planned gifts are an excellent way for an individual to give to a charity. Since the passage of the Montana Tax Credit in 1997, planned giving has become very popular in Montana. The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation is a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Endowments and Philanthropy and participates with the task force to actively encourage and defend public policies that reward donors for investing in Montana’s future. There are nine planned gifts allowed under Montana law. We are not attorneys or planned giving consultants, but we would be very pleased to work with you and your tax consultant or attorney to achieve your financial goals and charitable intentions. We do not charge any fees in this regard.
In 2002 Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton appointed the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation to be the Trust Manager of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust. Our responsibilities include investing the corpus of the trust and disbursing funds for projects requested by the Joint State-Federal Board, providing the projects meet the purpose of the trust.
Senator Max Bacus authored legislation in 1999 that allowed 265 cabin owners to purchase their plots at Canyon Ferry Reservoir from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. 90 percent of the proceeds fro the sales of the cabin sites were to be deposited in a permanent perpetual public trust in Montana to be known as the “Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust.”
The purpose of the trust is to provide a permanent source of funding to acquire publicly accessible land and interest in land, including easements and conservation easements, in the state from willing sellers at fair market value to:
The sales of the cabin sites and the lease payments generated a total of $14,945,403 for the Trust. This amount is the principal of the Trust and shall remain n perpetuity forever. Earnings on the trust shall be used to fund projects that meet the purpose of the legislation.
During the first three years of funding, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust has provided $1,763,108 for 17 different conservation projects throughout Montana. Since the fund was established it has grown to a current value of more than $20,000,000. The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation is very pleased with the growth of this fund and is proud of its role in the management of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust.