When Greg Melsen was invited to join the board of the Catholic Community Foundation (CCF) last year, it was a decision he made along with his wife, Barb. The Melsens are a tight knit couple who like to dig deep into an organization before they decide to get involved. Their shared background in accounting and finance has given them the skills to critically assess a nonprofit in ways that most people can’t. They gave CCF a thorough review.
“The first test CCF had to meet was whether we felt okay putting our donor advised fund there,” Barb said.
“We looked at the fees and the returns,” Greg added. “They would need to be competitive if I were to join the board.” Greg’s ability to make that kind of dispassionate appraisal was honed in a career that spanned more than 40 years and included experience both as an audit partner in a Big Four accounting firm and as a chief financial officer.
In the end, Greg not only joined CCF’s board, but he and Barb moved their existing donor advised fund from another service provider to the Foundation.
The Melsens are selective about who they support, and fiscal prudence matters to them. “I’m very outspoken about not contributing to causes that have a high overhead,” said Barb. But once they’ve made a decision, they’re all in, generously giving both their money and their time. They’ve served on Catholic school boards and traveled to Africa with Catholic Relief Services. Shortly after Greg joined CCF’s board, Barb joined the board of directors at Catholic Charities.
The Melsens point out that their approach reflects a recent trend in philanthropy. “Churches used to have social justice funds and people would just contribute and leave it to the church to decide.” Barb said. “But now, if I give, I want to make my own decisions.”
“People want more control,” Greg observed. “But they’re still generous and committed. It’s a hopeful time.” And the Melsens hope to continue helping others through smart philanthropy.