Peter and Anne Heegaard have been involved in charitable work ever since moving back to the Twin Cities in the 1960s. Heegaard, a retired investment executive, says one of his primary reasons for giving is that “it’s fun.” He takes real delight in the results of his family’s donations and the time they’ve donated to a variety of organizations. In recent years, his volunteer work has included publishing an investment letter that helps steer other potential donors toward well-operated charitable organizations that will benefit the community. In this brief interview, Peter talks about why he is so involved in the charitable community.
1) Why do you give?
Giving back is satisfying. You get a real benefit from giving when you realize the impact that it has on the community as a whole. Most of our giving focuses on helping the disadvantaged.
2) What are your favorite charities and why?
We give to about 50 charities. Our focus is on helping people become self-sufficient. Among our favorites are the Summit Academy OEC (Opportunity Industrialization Center), which helps young people learn how to lead productive lives; Twin Cities RISE, which helps with job training and placement; the Common Bond Communities, which is a major factor in helping find affordable housing; the Community Development Center, which trains small business entrepreneurs; and Project for Pride in Living, which helps people with affordable housing and in becoming self-sufficient.
3) What about your other charitable giving?
In some cases, we give at a lower level to help someone or an organization temporarily. In other cases, we’ve been involved in special instances, such as the crises that surfaced in the past few years like the flooding in New Orleans or the tsunami in Asia. We also give to a bunch of charities in the middle, generally to organizations here where we have been involved in some way and know others involved in them.
4) Why do you think giving is important?
Giving to charities is a way of giving back to the community from which we have benefited. Because of our focus, we help young people achieve self-sufficiency. We believe that is really in our self-interest since it leads to a safer and healthier community. In the long run, it also saves tax dollars, because productive people pay taxes.
5) What about your experience working with charity organizations?
In our early years in this area, we were involved in a whole range of organizations in the criminal justice system. We tried to help people get out of a life of crime, find affordable housing and develop job skills. We continue to work with a variety of charitable organizations today.
6) What advice would you give to other potential donors?
Study one or two organizations and evaluate them, just as you would evaluate an investment. Then help them, not just with money, but with energy and wisdom.
7) What has been your best giving experience?
We’ve had lots of good giving experiences. Just recently, we received a letter from a small-town farm family that I helped get a mortgage 35 years ago. They told me that the mortgage has helped three generations succeed. Getting a thank you down the road like this means a lot to me.
8) Any bad giving experiences?
Almost everyone has had a bad experience; you have to assume you aren’t always going to be successful. When we worked with criminal offenders, we loaned a few money that was never repaid, but you have to be prepared to have this kind of contribution be a gift.
9) Has the Charities Review Council been useful for you?
When I’m working on my investment letter, the CRC helps me identify and include the right charities. Their evaluations prove that a successful charity can help save money in the long run. I access their database frequently to see if a charity is legitimate. I use it not just for myself, but for others who come to me for advice. It’s an excellent resource for the community.