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Dave Olson, Published November 07 2011

Report: North Dakota wealth transfer holds potential for charities

FARGO – A new study expects that $308 billion in wealth will be transferred in North Dakota in coming decades.

Of that amount, an estimated $95 billion could flow to charitable organizations, according to Pat Traynor, who heads Impact and Dakota Medical Foundations, which helped sponsor the study.

“That (number) holds great potential for charity groups,” Traynor said Monday at the unveiling of a report titled “Endless Possibilities on the Prairie: Unleashing North Dakota’s Potential.”

The report, authored by John Havens and Paul Schervish of the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, estimates that between 2007 and 2061, approximately $308 billion worth of wealth will change hands.

The largest chunk, about $175 billion, is expected to go to heirs as part of estate giving, the report said.

Still, there will be tremendous opportunities for charities, according to Havens and Schervish, who spoke at Monday’s event in Fargo, which was attended by representatives of area nonprofit organizations.

Havens said that given how well North Dakota fared during the recession compared with the rest of the nation, there is every reason to believe the report’s findings will be borne out.

The study found that North Dakota’s wealth actually grew during the recession, with personal income increasing at an annual rate of 3.1 percent between 2000 and 2010, compared to 1.6 percent for the nation.

Traynor said that for some area nonprofit groups, the economic times have had little negative effect.

He said 92 nonprofits that received fundraising training through the Impact Foundation collected a total of $80 million in 2007.

The same groups raised more than $100 million in 2010, according to Traynor.

Given the potential dollars available in coming decades, Traynor said groups should think big when tackling community problems.

“Don’t think of just survival; think of solving some of the issues we’re dealing with,” he said.

“If we’re in social services,” he added, “we should think about solving the problem with homeless, hunger. The resources are available.

“Now,” he added, “we need to put together the plans to implement those bold strategies, both to tap into it (the potential wealth) and to do the good differently than we have before.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555