Fulfillment in Philanthropy

The Wingered Family Donor Advised Fund

Mark and Heidi Wingerd don’t really like to talk about their philanthropy because they don’t think it’s a big deal. But when they do, Heidi is quick to point out “When we give, it’s only made our lives better.”

The joy that giving brings them is evident when they open up about some of their past gifts, like to an orphanage in Jamaica. “I have a friend who goes there every year and we buy shoes for all the orphans,” explained Mark. “The kids get to pick out their own shoes, and they send us a video afterwards. You wouldn’t believe how happy these kids are about a pair of shoes.”

Heidi nodded in agreement. “Watching how these children react to something as basic as shoes, you realize how much we take for granted,” she observed. “Our gifts are small compared to the need.”

Mark recalled a pivotal moment years ago that got him to think seriously about his approach to philanthropy. Mark, who runs his own financial advisory firm, was working on an estate plan for a client who wanted to leave a modest amount to each of his sons and then give the bulk of his money to charity. “I was amazed,” Mark said. “But my client felt he’d given his sons a good education and raised them to be good people, so they’d be fine. By giving his money to charity, he thought he could make a difference in the world.” Mark added with some emotion, “That day changed my life.”

Mark and Heidi Wingerd

Mark and Heidi Wingerd

Use Donor Advised Fund to Make Giving a Routine
Mark and Heidi started to make philanthropy a priority at a time when most couples with young children are thinking about saving for college and their own retirement. Neither of the Wingerds comes from wealthy families, but as Mark’s business grew, so did their ability to give. “We’re not big spenders. In fact, we’re pretty boring,” Mark said. “But as my income went up, we didn’t really increase our style of living.”

Now philanthropy is just part of their routine. The Wingerds support a number of organizations through their Catholic Community Foundation Donor Advised Fund. “Our approach each year is to give away 10% of our income or 1% of our assets, whichever is more,” explained Mark. “Then we try to figure out where the need is.”

A majority of the Wingerd’s annual gifts go to support Catholic schools. “Catholic education made us who we are,” Mark stated. Both Heidi and Mark grew up attending Catholic schools in St. Paul; Heidi went to St. Andrews and Mark to Nativity of Our Lord. The couple actually began dating in high school, when Heidi was at Derham Hall and Mark at Cretin. They’ve continued the Catholic school tradition with their three sons; the oldest is a freshman at St. John’s University, another is a junior at Cretin-Derham Hall High School, and their youngest is in sixth grade at Nativity.

Mark and Heidi realize that tuition costs have become a barrier to many families seeking a similar Catholic education for their children. As a result, the Wingerds contribute to efforts to help make Catholic schools more affordable. “We want more kids to have the Catholic school experience that we had,” explained Heidi, who earned her teaching degree from the St. Catherine University and went on to teach at Nativity. “We really believe it will make them better people and contribute to a better community.”

“The most influential people in my life were Catholic teachers,” Mark added. “They were nuns, brothers and influential coaches, who taught all of us kids early on what the right thing is to do.”

Making the World a Better Place
As Heidi and Mark engage in an animated discussion about capital campaigns they’ve worked on for various schools, nonprofits they’ve supported over the years and the great friendships they’ve made in the process, they exude a happy contentment. “We have more than we need,” Mark said matter-of-factly. “If we can use our money to support Joseph’s Coats, or Second Harvest, or help some kids go to Catholic school, why not?”

The couple recalled a recent fundraising event at Cretin-Derham Hall where they sat at a table with a student who was receiving a full scholarship. “You couldn’t have chosen a better recipient for this scholarship,” said Mark. “This is a kid that’s going to go out and make the world a better place. At the end of the day, that’s our goal.”

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