CLEVELAND - About $160 billion in wealth could be passed from one generation to the next in Ohio by 2015 and foundations are looking to catch some of it.
If the state's community endowments would be given just 5 percent, they would receive about $8 billion in permanent assets.
"It's a staggering number," said George Espy, president of the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, which released a study by a Nebraska-based policy group. Capitalizing on the expected transfer of wealth, "could make a huge difference in the quality of life for generations to come."
Most of that money - reaped from post-World War II prosperity - will go to heirs of the deceased.
But some will go to charitable bequests and at a 5 percent payout, that $8 billion would make roughly $400 million available every year for local projects.
To put the potential windfall in context, Ohio's 68 community foundations reported assets of almost $4.6 billion in 2005 and giving of about $259 million.
"It's hard not to think that this is just a one-time opportunity," said Mr. Espy, whose organization represents foundations and other grantmakers.
"A transfer of this magnitude probably won't happen in the foreseeable future."
The report by the Rural Policy Research Institute Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in Lincoln, Neb., offers plausible scenarios, not guaranteed figures, said Richard Gardner, senior fellow and project coordinator.
The scenarios are based on estimates of Ohioans' current net worth - essentially assets such as homes or investments minus debt - which was about $900 billion in 2005.
Researchers analyzed population, income, and economic trends to estimate how much wealth is likely to be created over time and the timing of the transfer.
A pioneering study by Boston College researchers in 1999 predicted a minimum of $41 trillion nationwide would pass from one generation to another by 2052.
About a third of that was expected to come from the estates of people with less than $1 million in assets when they died.
Mr. Gardner said the Ohio analysis shows there is a huge opportunity for even rural and less affluent communities to benefit.
"It's a call to action," said Cara Dingus Brook, chief executive and president of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. "Think of what could happen if you could capture a small piece of this intergenerational transfer."
Ms. Brook said that with the extreme need in the area, building endowments aimed at resolving long-term community problems is critical.
The transfer-of-wealth study gives the staff of the almost 10-year-old foundation more tools to point out the opportunities available in Appalachian Ohio, she said.
For instance, Noble County, with the lowest estimated transfer of wealth statewide, still could see $770 million change hands by 2055. Cuyahoga County is first in that category at more than $148 billion.
Brian Frederick, president of the Community Foundation of Lorain County, noted that the wealth transfer in that county by 2015 could be $3.4 billion, according to the report.
Assuming the 5 percent rate of gifts to foundations used by researchers, that would be another $8.5 million annually for community improvements.
"It blew me away when I saw that," said Mr. Frederick, who is also vice chairman of the Midwest Community Foundations' Ventures, a three-state collaborative. "What it shows is that everybody can be a philanthropist."
He said he knows some people are skeptical about the expected size of the wealth transfer.
"What if it's off by as much as 50 percent? It's still a lot of money," Mr. Frederick said.