We recently had the opportunity to interview Mel Lindauer, President of The John C. Bogle Center for Financial Literacy. The Center was established in 2010 and has swung into operations over the past several years. Readers may be interested in The Center, its purpose and mission, and its future plans.
Financial Page: What is the John C. Bogle Center for Financial Literacy, and what is its mission?
Mel Lindauer: The John C. Bogle Center for Financial Literacy is an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The Center was established to continue Vanguard founder John C. Bogle’s crusade to see that investors get their fair share of market returns and to raise the level of financial literacy for all investors so they can realize their goals and achieve financial independence.
The Center works to educate the public about sound financial principles, including living below one’s means, staying out of debt, saving, investing wisely in a diversified, tax-efficient manner, minimizing investment costs, and contributing to available retirement plans. Although The Center seeks to educate individuals of all ages, it hopes to reach more individuals at a young age to instill these sound financial principles early enough in life to allow them to reach their financial goals.
The Center plans to use different media (e.g., books, Internet chat forums, Internet social networks, informational web sites, printed matter, and video) and conferences and meetings to reach as many people as possible. The Center plans to create content that will help educate the public and provide guidance on these important issues, and will make speakers available to the media (including television, radio, magazines, and newspapers) for interviews that further this purpose.
The Center has no immediate plans to make grants to other organizations and does not have an application form or grant proposal. However, the Center might make grants in the future in furtherance of its exempt purposes. For example, the Center might provide funding to help defray the expenses of websites, such as Bogleheads.org, that promote the financial principles advanced by The Center.
As an IRS-approved public charity, donations to the Center are tax-deductible
FP: How did the idea for The Center germinate, and how was it formed?
ML: At the 2009 Bogleheads Conference in Philadelphia, John C. (Jack) Bogle authorized us to set up a non-profit organization to expand and carry on his work. All the legal work to set up the Corporation and then obtain IRS approval as a non-profit organization was provided pro-bono by a generous Texas attorney, Boglehead Eric Reis.
FP: What projects has The Center funded up to this point?
ML: To date, The Center has funded two major ongoing projects.
First, The Center organizes and manages the annual Bogleheads Conferences that educate investors from around the country and around the world. Our Conferences have attracted attendees from nearly every state in the US, as well as attendees from several foreign countries.
Secondly, The Bogle Center has helped with the funding of the Bogleheads.org online investing forum that helps educate investors from around the world.
FP: How successful has the fundraising process gone? What is the breakdown in The Center’s roster of benefactors?
ML: Sadly, our fundraising efforts have been stifled by the fact that we don’t have the funds needed to hire or engage experienced fundraising personnel to execute a large fundraising effort. It’s a catch-22 situation; we need funds to raise the funds needed to carry out our mission.
To date, nearly all donations have been from individuals and/or their Donor Advised Funds. Most have been in the $25, $50, and $100 range. We’ve had very few donations in the $1,000 range and only one five-figure donation.
Obviously, we need large donations (ideally enough to create an endowment) so that we can hire an experienced Executive Director to carry out The Center’s work. While all The Center’s Board of Directors serve without pay, we do need a paid Executive Director to carry out the day-to-day operations of The Center. Therefore, there’s a dire need for an endowment fund to insure the continued and expanded operation of The Center’s mission.
FP: What future projects does The Center hope to fund?
ML: We have several ideas.
- We plan to collaborate with other organizations that are currently doing financial literacy work.
- We plan to conduct educational seminars, utilizing the assistance and talents of the many existing Bogleheads Local Chapters around the country.
- We plan to train and certify volunteers who want to further the cause of The Bogle Center’s mission of investor education.
- To achieve our goal of educating investors at a younger age, we plan to develop and distribute material to be used in financial education programs that reach students at the high school and college levels. As part of this program, we plan to develop and distribute standardized lesson plans and material that would be used in this education effort.
- Finally, we plan to conduct local and/or regional training seminars that would educate and certify the high school and college educators.