Response to “Jewish Nonprofits Need to Reach Out for Legacy Gifts”

by Sue Kline

Thank you, Robert L. Evans and Avrum D. Lapin, for your timely article on the importance of legacy giving on the landscape of Jewish philanthropy. As giving patterns change, legacy gifts will provide an ongoing stream of support to sustain Jewish organizations long into the future. The Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) could not agree more.

Since 2008, we at HGF have embraced the San Diego model of Create a Jewish Legacy, which has resulted in $212 million in future gifts for the San Diego Jewish community. HGF adopted San Diego’s approach with impressive results for Western Massachusetts – an estimated $18 million in future funds for 19 Jewish organizations.

Create a Jewish Legacy is not just a catchy name loosely applied to this type of philanthropy; it’s a model of legacy giving with three components that have proven to be critical success factors: 1) a required timeline for community Jewish organizations to secure legacy commitments; 2) generous financial incentives to organizations for reaching goals, and 3) a high quality staff person assigned to the program. It is no wonder that the idea of after-lifetime giving, long touted as a good idea, has recently taken off as one of the most significant and gratifying ways to make charitable gifts.

There are lots of other bright spots in the arena of legacy giving. HGF is funding legacy efforts in several communities under the auspices of the Areivim Philanthropic Group, which has used the model to support flourishing legacy programs in Philadelphia, Tucson, St Louis and San Francisco. Through Areivim, 16 Hillel campuses are also engaged in establishing robust legacy giving initiatives. Well over 2000 legacy conversations have led to an estimated $71.9 million in funded and future legacy gifts.

In addition, HGF has created Camp Legacy for Jewish nonprofit overnight summer camps affiliated with the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy. To date, 48 camps have raised $70 million from more than 3,100 donors.

Now for even more good news: In November 2012, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation will take after-lifetime giving to new heights by launching Life & Legacy, a two-year initiative headed by Gail Littman, a nationally acknowledged leader in helping entire Jewish communities promote legacy giving. Communities will receive matching funds from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation along with education, mentoring and training for the central organization, such as a Jewish Federation or Foundation, and for all participating organizations, such as day schools, synagogues, and Jewish social service agencies.

To establish a new and robust program, HGF plans to provide up to $20 million dollars over the next several years, spreading Life & Legacy to up to fifty communities in North America. Said Harold Grinspoon: “I am pleased to have the leadership of Gail Littman who is a true visionary when it comes to legacy giving.”

HGF is in the process of selecting seven Jewish communities of varying size and location to comprise the first Life & Legacy cohort.

We share your belief that after-lifetime planned gifts are an important and meaningful focus for Jewish philanthropy. Kol ha-kavod for directing public attention to legacy giving!

Sue Kline is the Director of Create a Jewish Legacy, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.