In the mid-1990s, longtime League member Elizabeth Keyes passed away while on a trip to Russia. She had served on the State Board for a number of years in the seventies and many of us remember her service and dedication to the LWV. When her will was probated, we found that she had left a very generous bequest to the LWV of Vermont and another to the LWV of the U.S. The funds were put into a money market account while we formed a management plan.
In 1997-1998, working with the law firm of Bergeron, Paradis & Fitzpatrick, the State Board created the Elizabeth Keyes Trust to administer the money. Trustees of the Trust are Sonja Schuyler and John W. O'Donnell, Esquire, of the law firm, with the funds invested in financial instruments managed by Morgan Stanley. It should be noted that the Keyes Trust helps fund the LWV of Vermont budget as needed and, in 2002, provided the funds for consultants to formulate a strategic plan for increasing League membership.
Documents were also drawn up and instituted to establish the League of Women Voters of Vermont Education Fund, Inc. with seed money coming from the Trust. Application for incorporation was made to the State of Vermont and the lengthy process of securing 501(c)(3) status from the IRS was initiated, with probationary approval received in 1997. A report was filed with the IRS in 2002 detailing all the financial transactions for the five-year period, after which permanent status was achieved. A red-letter day!
Bylaws for the Education Fund are available. They provide for a three to five member Board of Directors with the initial appointments made by the LWV of Vermont Board when the Fund was established. This was done with the appointment of three LWV members as Directors. The Fund's board became self-perpetuating at that point. The original intent was to have the State LWV Board make appointments, but the attorney said no because "there may be a problem if the League has complete control over the selection of the Fund's Board" (with the IRS). It is imperative that the LWV of Vermont and the LWV of Vermont Education Fund remain two completely separate and distinct entities.
While all of this was transpiring, Winona Smith passed away. Winona was the president (and soul) of the Central Vermont League and served many years on the State Board. Many bequests in Winona's memory were made to the LWV of Vermont, and it was decided to establish the Winona Smith Scholarship Fund for the benefit of Vermont high school seniors who share League values. Funds were deposited with the Education Fund and the scholarships are administered by the Directors.
Initial Directors of the Ed Fund were Marge Gaskins, Sonja Schuyler, and Mary von Ziegesar. In November 2000, the Directors voted to expand the Board to the maximum five allowable. It was decided that Directors would meet four times per year. In 2009, the number of Directors reverted to three.
Fundraising letters were sent out to various businesses with dismal results. Income has come primarily from member donations. With the volatile market, both the Trust and the Ed Fund have suffered some reversals. Our fundraising project for 2005 was to secure funding for the revision and reprinting of the Vermont Citizens' Guide. We secured a total of $5,000 in foundation grants for that purpose.
Since 1998, the Ed Fund has funded a number of projects, both LWV sponsored and others, and granted a number of Winona Smith scholarships. A complete list is available, along with a copy of the application for scholarships. A protocol for handling funding requests and guidelines were sent to local League presidents in 2001.