Five years ago when Sandy Fruitt took over as director of the Central Kansas Community Foundation, she hoped they could grow to having $10 million in assets. Now they are at about $16 million and still growing.

"It has done so much better than we imagined," she said.

A faltering economy has worked in their favor as well. She said often when the economy is struggling, people are more aware of the need and more willing to donate.

"When people see cuts in the state with arts and other things, that can be motivating. People always seem to come through," she said.

The foundation makes grants for the community in several areas, such as health and education as well as many other areas.

They get their money though donations and from earning interest on those donations. Estate gifts are a big part of those donations. Some estates have given $1 million or more to the foundation, but they are much smaller at times. Fruit said estate gifts have come from teachers, secretaries and nurses and the last two were for $245,000 and $660,000.

"It is ordinary people choosing to make a difference in their community this way," she said.

Much of the money is invested in stocks and income off that is used to make grants. Five percent goes out in grants each year, and one percent is taken off to run the organization. Last year they earned 11.6 percent interest on their investments, which was better than normal and it varies year to year.

One of the most popular ways of giving is a "donor advised fund." In these funds a familly can establish a fund and tell the foundation where they want it to go each year.

One similar is a women's community fund. In this case 40 women gave $500 each, and that gives the foundation $20,000 for distribution. Organizations can apply for grants and awards are made in the fall.

There is also the Kid's Fund, which had been funded by a local golf tournament. The foundation now supports it and awards $30,000 to $40,000 every year in the spring. Next year they will have a public health fund.

Several small towns also have foundations that operate under the umbrella of the Central Kansas Community Foundation. The Walton Rural Life Center and the Newton Public Library also have such organizations. Fruitt said they are able to operate with her foundation's 501c3 status instead of going through the time and trouble of getting their own.

"It has worked out well for them. It gets them on the fast track and they have done some amazing things," she said.

She said they work well because it is a simple idea, the way community foundations work.

She currently administers 280 funds and they represent several areas. School districts also can create scholarship programs and some of those are administered by the foundation.

Fruitt said she has been pleased with the $16 million level, and hopes to reach the $20 million mark.