The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines celebrated a record year for charitable giving during its annual celebration luncheon on Thursday.

Collectively, charitable giving funds of the Community Foundation granted more than $29.4 million to organizations in 2016, with 5,575 checks mailed to causes on behalf of donors, according to its 2017 Report to the Community. A total of 1,535 charities received support from Community Foundation charitable giving funds.

The Community Foundation also facilitated gifts of more than $62.6 million to charitable giving funds from donors. The foundation currently has nearly $447.66 million in assets under administration.

"We're here to serve as a resource and partner," Community Foundation President Kristi Knous told a crowd of about 600 attendees at the luncheon at Veterans Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center. "It's breaking down barriers to giving and making it stress-free."

The 2017 Better Together Award was presented to Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa, which received a $2,500 check from the foundation to support its work. The voluntary network of service providers work together to better serve the needs of the growing refugee population in Central Iowa. Approximately 800 refugees arrive in Iowa annually, with about three-quarters of those settling in Greater Des Moines.

Among other activities last year, the Community Foundation:

  • Granted $661,193 from the Better Together Fund, including six Leadership Grants.
  • Trained more than 700 individuals through BoardLaunch and OnTrack trainings.
  • Led 12 Innovation Investors through the IGNITE Community Innovation Challenge.
  • Conducted 1,093 donor meetings.

The Community Foundation also serves 31 affiliate counties throughout the state, and those rural communities are expected to transfer $225 billion in wealth from one generation to the next over the next 50 years. If individuals and families gave just 1 percent of that amount to charitable causes through the foundation, that would generate a $2.25 billion impact. "Now that's Iowa Nice," Knous said.

Knous noted that there is no minimum dollar amount for establishing a fund, and that a charitable giving fund can be developed by any individual, family or organization. "After that you can give to the causes you really care about, and that's where the joy begins," she said.