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An Iron Will

Denny and Carole Dotson

After decades of running an internationally-renowned business and contributing countless significant financial gifts to the community, one might expect Denny Dotson, owner of Dotson Iron Castings, to be a bit of a self-taught fiscal mastermind. But Dotson always credits his childhood friend-turned-attorney, Jack Regan, with the best financial advice he has ever received.

“Estate and will planning are incredibly difficult and emotional,” Dotson said. “When you’re writing a will, you don’t know if you are writing something for three, 10, or 20 years down the road. Plus, you want to donate charitably, but there’s also concern for your children and grandchildren. How do you even begin to balance all of that?”

According to Dotson, Regan provided a remarkably straightforward answer to this common conundrum.

“Jack looked at Carole and me and said, ‘You grew up in Mankato, and you benefited from this community,’” Dotson said. “‘So why don’t you treat Mankato as an additional child? You have four kids, but treat this community as your fifth.’”

And with that idea in mind, Dotson’s philanthropic goals have been simplified and solidified ever since.

“It’s easy. Our will says that 20% of whatever we have left will go to this community via the charitable experts at Mankato Area Foundation,” Dotson said. “And I give that same advice to anyone who will listen.”

According to Nancy Zallek, president and CEO of the Mankato Area Foundation, Dotson has been a maverick and a remarkably influential supporter of the Foundation’s work for decades.

“Whenever we have or are approached with a new and exciting idea, Denny is one of the first people I call,” Zallek said. “And not only does he support the ideas; he is usually the one to tell us to think even bigger.”

Some of these projects have included helping to establish the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota, funding Mankato Youth Place (MY Place), and helping to develop Shared Spaces – A Center for Nonprofit Collaboration that is available to numerous local and regional organizations.

“I strongly believe that giving should be fun,” Dotson said. “And giving in Mankato is always fun.”

When asked to describe how MAF makes philanthropy function for him and his family today, Dotson replied with one word: “Easy.”

“I can so confidently trust the Foundation and its staff to be aware of what’s happening and what the needs are in the community, as well as how those needs change over time,” Dotson said. “They are involved in absolutely everything. Between all of that and the extraordinary back-office support, MAF makes philanthropy easy. And when it’s easy, it’s extra fun.”

This is also why Dotson trusts his long-term planned giving to be managed by MAF.

“I can’t predict what the needs of the community will be 30 or 40 years from now, but the Foundation will always be adapting and responding to those needs,” Dotson said.

“Between their staff and our kids’ future involvement in managing our donor advised fund, we can trust that our gifts will continue to be put to good use long after we’re gone.”

So when asked about the advice Dotson gives to those trying to determine their own unique ways to give, he returned to the wisdom of Jack Regan.

“Every parent wants their kids to have all their needs met and to live happy and healthy lives,” Dotson said. “So what if we all treated our community with that same level of care? Personally, I think the results would be pretty gosh darn magical.”

Submitted Photo

Nancy Zallek

President and CEO of Mankato Area Foundation