Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for your interest in learning more about Incourage! If your question is not addressed below, feel free to submit it via the box to the right, or call us at 715.423.3863.
What is Incourage, technically?

Incourage is classified as a “community foundation” by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  That means that it is categorized as a “501(c)(3)” organization, which refers to the section of the federal tax code that also applies to many other 501(c)(3) organizations such as a YMCA or a Boys & Girls Club.  There are two main types of 501(c)(3) organizations: public charities and private foundations. Community foundations are “public charities”, which means they can collect and hold donations from individuals, businesses, government sources, and other nonprofit organizations including private foundations.

Community foundations can invest the donations they receive and spend a defined percentage of the balance (often called an “endowment”), or they can spend the entire balance of a fund on programs and activities that primarily benefit the community – depending on the type of gift received.  Programs and activities can be accomplished by Incourage directly delivering them, or by granting funds to others for them to deliver the programs and activities.

Like other 501(c)(3) organizations, a community foundation’s activities must promote purposes permitted by the IRS, including “charitable” and “educational” activities.  Charitable activities have been defined by the IRS to include many different activities that make a community a good place to live – for example, teaching job skills, making people healthier by supporting recreational activities or increasing access to nutritional food, cleaning up the environment, or supporting a business that will create jobs in a place that has high unemployment.

Read CEO Kelly Ryan’s blog “What is Incourage” here>>
Read Incourage’s impact papers here>>

Where does Incourage get its money?

Incourage receives its funding from many different sources, including local, regional, and national donors representing private, public, and philanthropic contributions.  Most of the funding Incourage receives for its community work is in the form of donations, either as unrestricted gifts or through the establishment of a charitable fund for a specific purpose, including those designated to support Incourage operations.  As of August 2017, approximately 85% of Incourage funds are designated for a specific purpose, with the remaining 15% unrestricted, flexible and at the discretion of the Board of Directors to further Incourage’s mission/vision. Incourage also seeks and receives grant funding for its programs, earns income and gains/losses on its investments, receives rent from organizations sharing its building, and earns some revenue from delivering community programs.

Why does Incourage have 16 staff members?

In response to community need and to accelerate change, Incourage has evolved from a traditional grantmaker to become the community development organization it is today.  Incourage creates, delivers and supports programs and makes investments to help residents of south Wood County own their futures through activities such as learning about leadership, sharpening job-related skills, participating in important community decisions, and establishing new businesses.  Delivering such a broad range of programs requires additional staff members with the right kind of experience, and Incourage is proud to have created these positions to support our community.  We also work with over 400 volunteers who donate hundreds of hours of their valuable time every year to help with grant making and program delivery.

Learn about Incourage’s impact and growth over the last two decades>>

How does Incourage decide how much to pay its staff?

Using the information in Vital Signs and other data concerning compensation and benefits for jobs in the area, Incourage sets fair, family-supporting and living wages and benefits for every staff member.  The Board of Directors reviews and approves staff positions and overall staff compensation and benefits.

The salaries of the senior staff team, including the CEO, are set to provide competitive compensation, taking into account the complexity and scope of the work, relevant experience, and the importance of retaining their talents in our community.  The Board considers published salary surveys for similar positions throughout the region and nation to ensure that the compensation is appropriate.  The Board reviews CEO pay annually, taking comparative pay data into consideration, including regional and national foundations, as well as community development organizations and data on peers with whom our CEO is most comparable.

2016 NOTE: Due to a change in our vacation policy, limiting the amount of carryover from year-to-year, compensation was inflated by a one-time payout to several employees who had been at Incourage for many years.

What is Incourage’s approach to community growth and development?

Since its inception, Incourage has continually evolved to meet the changing needs of the community.  Over the past decade, Incourage has learned that our community will be strongest if we focus on the many different kinds of assets we have here.  We refer to these assets as different forms of “capital.”  For example, in addition to financial capital, there is knowledge to share (intellectual capital), people with many talents and interests (human capital), interconnected networks of residents and support (social capital), an abundance of natural resources (natural capital), and recognition that decisions made about the future impact us all (moral capital).

We are working on ways to make sure that all of these forms of capital are used to the fullest extent possible to realize a community that works well for all, depicted in our Strategy Map.  Some of this work is done by Incourage staff, some by community volunteers, and some through partnerships with area organizations and municipalities.

Along with continuously evaluating ways to use all of our capitals most strategically, we are also working to make sure that we are investing our funds for the longer term in ways that will most benefit our community (this is often referred to as 100% for Mission).  This means that we may buy shares in a company that creates jobs in our area, invest in real estate that will provide value to our community, provide loans to organizations that relend the funds to create economic opportunity in a variety of ways and screen our investments to make sure that the kinds of businesses we support align with our vision and values as much as possible.  Read our Investment Policy Statement Preamble for additional details.

Read Incourage’s impact papers here>>

How are people chosen for Incourage’s Board of Directors?  Do they get paid?

Board members are not paid to serve Incourage.  As a 501(c)(3) public charity, it is important that members of the public volunteer to serve and lead our Board of Directors.  Because Board members have a range of responsibilities, from finance to programs to managing the Board itself, Incourage looks for Board members with a variety of areas of expertise.  However, the central unifying criteria among all Incourage board members is a deep belief in Incourage’s vision and values.  Sometimes Incourage recruits specific directors, while others have come forward themselves, often starting out on a committee or volunteering in some other way.  The Board itself votes on new members and helps prepare them for, and orient them to, their important roles.  Each Board member serves at least one term, ranging from one to three years, with a maximum service time of nine consecutive years.

Incourage has four Board members. That seems small – is it?

Incourage’s Board of Directors is presently four individuals.  The State of Wisconsin requires that a nonprofit corporation, such as Incourage, have a minimum of three Board members, and Incourage’s bylaws allow for a minimum of three and maximum of fifteen.

Incourage has thought carefully about best practices in nonprofit governance and agrees that the trend toward smaller, well-functioning, mission-aligned, highly engaged boards is most effective – particularly when paired with authentic resident engagement.  A board should be large enough to get the board’s work done, yet small enough to work as a single team to communicate, deliberate, and function well as a single body.  Incourage also believes strongly that its work should be guided as much as possible by many community voices.  Incourage shares information in many ways and receives guidance from the community through many sources, including its extensive network of volunteers, participants in Incourage committees (see question below), community engagement activities, community forums, and community-wide surveys.

Review 2012 Community Survey Key Findings >>

Beyond the Board, are there additional Committees?

Incourage utilizes a nimble approach to forming committees, task forces and working groups with Board, staff, consultants, and volunteers.  Some typical areas where committees may be used include:

Incourage’s full Board of Directors serves in these roles and regularly reviews and provides oversight to the finance and investment functions of the organization.  Incourage has contracted with Colonial Consulting to provide investment advisory services since 2007.  Additional expertise is gained through relationships with Avivar Capital and Wipfli, among others utilized as needed in this process.  Having the full Board directly responsible for governance in each of these areas allows for robust discussion and deeper understanding in setting strategic direction and its implications.  As appropriate, separate committees may be established if it would benefit the effective implementation of strategic direction as determined by the Board.

Grants are essentially funds provided by Incourage to another qualifying group or organization for them to deliver a program, service or activity.  Incourage makes grants from a variety of funding sources.  Some grants go to specific causes in the community that are recommended by the donors through “donor advised funds” (a fund held by Incourage in the name of a family or individual in which that family or individual can “advise” Incourage on how to distribute those funds).  Other grants are made from “designated funds”, “field of interest funds” or “scholarship funds”, in which the donor has specified their purpose, such as supporting the Family Center, supporting programs for youth, or a scholarship for a student from a local high school

Other grants come from “undesignated funds” (often called “unrestricted funds”), which means the donor gave the gift to Incourage without a designated purpose.  For those funds, Incourage must use that funding to further its mission/vision, but has flexibility in how it accomplishes that purpose.  Incourage utilizes this unrestricted funding for a variety of needs.  We spend some of it directly on specific programs and activities, such as the Tribune, Blueprints, and Workforce Central.  We also use some of it for various grant programs, with community members helping to inform and making decisions themselves:

What If
“What If” is intended for resident-led projects that bring people together to move a good idea to action.  Decisions on these grants are made by a Resident Review Committee, made up of 12 local residents.

Progress Funds
Funds are set up in each community throughout south Wood County.  These funds are intended for resident-led projects that bring people together to move a good idea to action in a specific area.  Decisions on these grants are made by a Progress Fund Committee, made up of residents who live in that community.  In total, 32 residents serve on Progress Fund Committees throughout south Wood County.

Proactive Grants (click on Inquiry Form)
We invite inquiries for support that test new approaches and address the changing needs of our community.  Residents help to inform needs through community surveys and engagement activities. Grant inquiries are considered on an ongoing basis, for alignment with our values, community priorities and greatest community benefit.

Approximately 170 volunteer committee members take part in our scholarship review process at Incourage.  Committee composition consists of Incourage staff, school counselors and administrators, fund representatives, as well as an overwhelming amount of community residents that have taken an interest in the program.  Each of the 127 funds awards scholarships to recipients that are chosen via committee review process (consistent with HR4 legislation) to determine the best candidate based on a specific set of criteria that is determined at the time the fund agreement is established.

Why do we talk a lot about “resident engagement” and what does that mean?

Residents who feel a sense of ownership, shared responsibility and shared destiny by virtue of a shared place are essential in shaping healthy, sustainable and inclusive economic growth.  We operate from a central belief that people are our most important asset and positive community change happens when individuals have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

We believe an informed and engaged community is a healthy community.  To us, this means that residents must have equitable access to open, civil space for authentic dialogue on issues that effect their lives and the lives of their families.  No one knows better what residents need than the residents themselves.  Our commitment to this community is more than residents “being heard” – our commitment is to active listening and giving residents the opportunity to have meaningful, civil dialogue where various opinions and perspectives are respected, encouraged, and ultimately acted upon.

Are the minutes of the Incourage Board of Director meetings available to the public?

The minutes of meetings for organizations such as Incourage are not available to the public.  Under Wisconsin law, a “nonstock corporation” without members, which is the legal classification for Incourage, is required to share its minutes with everyone on the Board of Directors but not the general public.  Federal law also doesn’t require sharing minutes with the public.

There is often a lot of confusion on this issue because government organizations are required to make their minutes public and to hold open meetings.  However, generally, a nonprofit organization is not a public or governmental “authority”.  In rare cases, a nonprofit organization could be required to comply with the open records and meetings requirements if it receives more than 50 percent of its funds from a county or a municipality and it provides services related to public health or safety to the county or municipality.  See Sec. 19.32(1), Wis. Stats.

Although a nonprofit organization could choose to make its minutes available, it is rarely done and not a best practice.  Generally, minutes are intended to serve as a record of the Board’s actions (e.g., whether it approves a lease for new office space or directs its CEO to start a new program).  Minutes are not intended to be a record of the conversations that take place at a meeting.  To have productive meetings with directors who are asking good questions and actively engaged in conversation, they should not be worried about having what they said, did or didn’t do misunderstood or misconstrued.  Directors must be open to discussion of issues and feel free to express their opinions and/or disagree.  Additionally, the free flow of information from leadership is encouraged, in order to bring important issues to the attention of the Board, and public disclosure may decrease that flow.

We publish regular updates on our work and encourage you to stay informed by subscribing here (subscription box is on the right-hand side).  And you can always send us a question on our FAQ page, call us at 715.423.3863, and follow us on Facebook.

Incourage no longer hosts an annual meeting, and has replaced it with a community picnic. Why? What if I have questions?

In 2012, we replaced our traditional annual meeting with a Community Picnic.  Taking place the first Wednesday in August each year, the picnic promotes connections among residents, businesses and organizations, and highlights community assets.  It is designed to be welcoming and open to all – providing an opportunity for everyone to come together to celebrate living in south Wood County, and build relationships and connections with their neighbors, helping to realize our vision of a community that works well for all people.

We are always open to a conversation with anyone who wishes to know more about Incourage, our operations, and the impact we’re having in this place. Visit our office, or contact us via phone (715.423.3863) or email.

How do I get involved?

We welcome your involvement in many ways:

  • Stay informed by receiving our frequent community updates by subscribing here (subscription box is on the right-hand side);
  • Attend our community meetings and events, which happen throughout the year;
  • Like us on Facebook;
  • Follow us on Twitter;
  • Contact us directly to have a conversation and learn more about our work;
  • Become an informed community member by attending public meetings and sharing your ideas in a thoughtful and respectful manner;
  • Make a direct contribution to support our work and the future of our community;
  • Contact us to discuss your interests and how you can partner with and invest in Incourage to help realize a community that works well for all.
I have a question about the Tribune Building Project.

Please read Frequently Asked Questions related to the Tribune.

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