Jewish Community Foundation brings Life & Legacy partners together for community’s future
Photos by Richard Kasper
As partners in Life & Legacy, 12 Jewish organizations and congregations in the Valley are positioning themselves to receive a share of the estimated $59 trillion transfer of wealth projected to take place in the United States by 2052.
Researchers Paul Schervish and John Havens have studied that projected transfer since 1998, and their 2014 update notes that $5.4 trillion of that generational transfer of wealth is projected to benefit charities.
When the Harold Grinspoon Foundation created the Life & Legacy program in 2012, Jewish communities joined the colleges, hospitals and cultural organizations that have long taken advantage of end-of-life giving. Launched in seven pilot communities that year, Life & Legacy is now working with 23 communities across the country. As of Dec. 31, 2014, the first 14 communities representing 176 organizations had secured more than 3,800 legacy commitments with an estimated future value of $133 million in gifts to Jewish organizations, says Arlene Schiff, national director of Grinspoon Foundation’s Life & Legacy program.
“We provide training and support along the journey and financial incentives to motivate them (partner organizations in each participating community),” says Schiff.
For instance, in Phoenix, the Grinspoon Foundation is working with the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix, with each pledging up to $300,000 for training and incentive grants to the 12 local partners. Partners earn a $6,500 incentive grant for each year they secure 18 legacy gift pledges; those securing 25 in a year will get $10,000 grants.
“Our hope and budget allows for all 12 agencies to reach 25 donors each year,” says JCF Life & Legacy Program Director Rachel Rabinovich. She notes that the JCF’s Life & Legacy Task Force, chaired by Mark Sklar and Jonathan Hoffer, already has raised the $300,000 to secure the matching grant from Grinspoon.
“Life & Legacy is a key element in JCF’s strategic plan, helping to make the Jewish Community Foundation a more valuable resource in the community,” says JCF President & CEO Richard Kasper. “We expect that this program will strengthen our partnerships with all of the participating agencies as we help strengthen them financially.”
Kasper says he also expects that even groups not in the program will benefit as perspectives in the community shift and people and organizations come to understand the importance of endowment building and end-of-life giving.
“Our Declaration of Commitment lists all 12 agencies,” says Rachel. “So while someone from Congregation Or Tzion may be speaking to one of their prospects about an after-life commitment to the synagogue, the prospect also has the chance to indicate which other agencies she or he would like to support that are in Life & Legacy.”
While they are grateful for the training and incentive grants, representatives of several of the partners say they are especially excited by the collaborative, noncompetitive focus of Life & Legacy.
“As a community this will be much more impactful than if we were all working on our own,” says Frank Jacobson, Jewish Family & Children’s Service vice president of marketing and development. “There will be lots of information out there, and it is very likely that donors will want to make plans to give to more than one agency. We can all benefit by implementing the program together.”
East Valley CEO/Executive Director JCC Steve Tepper concurs: “We see the Life & Legacy program as having many positive facets, with one of them being the idea that donors can create an estate plan that benefits many different parts of the community.”
“The beauty of this program is that it is not a competitive, but rather a cooperative, process in which everyone will benefit together,” says Lawrence Bell, Ph.D, executive director of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, which owns the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center.
Tami Adelman, Pardes Jewish Day School director of development, sees that cooperative approach as leading to a stable future for the Jewish community. “Most people have more than one organization in our community that is close to their heart,” says Tami. Since donors will be able to easily use their estate to benefit multiple nonprofits through their declaration of commitment, it “enables those who are ‘making the ask’ to be community minded. It will be a win-win for all involved, especially our donors who want to make a difference.”
Some partners also mentioned that asking donors to commit a percentage of their estate rather than a specific dollar amount eases seniors’ fears regarding outliving their resources.
“I like the concept of identifying a percentage of an estate rather than a dollar amount,” says Phil Adelman of Temple Kol Ami. “My wife conducts Jewish services at 15 senior facilities. One of the overriding fears of senior citizens is that they will outlive their financial resources. Asking for a small percentage of any residual estate, rather than a specific dollar figure, seems like an idea that will alleviate those fears.”
Lawrence notes that though the greater Phoenix area is one of the largest Jewish metropolitan areas in the country, “The problem has always been that since most of our residents come from other cities, their attachment to our local Jewish community has supposedly been weaker than it was ‘back home.’ I think, however, that when people realize that their children and grandchildren are growing up here, they will realize the need to create the foundation for a strong Jewish community for years to come.”
Jacqui Breger, executive director of the Jewish Genetic Diseases Center of Greater Phoenix, notes this unifying effort will take both the community and her organization to a stronger future.
“I am most excited about the opportunity of being able to secure legacy gifts knowing that I am securing the center’s future and the future of the Jewish community in Phoenix,” she says. “I am a firm believer in every organization having an endowment as security for their future. This is a wonderful opportunity to realize this goal and set up our organization as a resource for generations to come.”
The desire for a strong Jewish community for her own son, 4-year-old Jacob, provides a strong motivation for Rachel and her leadership of Life & Legacy locally. “I am 100% a product of the Jewish community,” says Rachel, noting she grew up active in her congregation, Jewish camps and Jewish youth groups with her education based in Judaism. “I want my child, if he chooses, to have those agencies around for him.”
At the first training session in March, Arlene asked participants to imagine the community in 40 years.
“I realized I want everything that has touched my life, I want all those agencies and my synagogue to still be thriving,” says Rachel.