Cultivating donor and adviser key to big gift

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In the spring of 2007, at the invitation of First Citizens Bank, Beth Boney Jenkins of the North Carolina Community Foundation met in Raleigh with a group of the bank’s trust officers to talk about how the foundation could work with them as they advised clients on their charitable giving.

“Outreach to professional advisers is one of the key dynamics of our work,” says Jenkins, vice president of development at the Foundation. “They are very often working with people of wealth or people with charitable interests who would be in a position to utilize the services of the Foundation.”

That spring meeting ultimately led to a $20 million endowment bequest to the Foundation from the estate of Louise Oriole Burevitch, a Wilmington philanthropist represented by one of the bank’s trust officers.

Working with advisers

Jenkins says the gift was the fruit of relationships she developed over the past seven years with the trust officer and the donor.

“You have to build a relationship of trust, especially when donors are thinking about their legacy giving,” she says, referring to the type of significant gifts donor often through estate planning or bequests.

A core job at nonprofits is raising money, and cultivating donors is central to that job. At community foundations, which work with donors to create charitable funds and to make grants from those funds to support causes they care about, a key task of the fundraising staff is to develop relationships with donors and with professional advisers.

As part of their “cultivation” of advisers — including lawyers, accountants, estate planners, brokers, insurance agents and trust officers at financial institutions — charities offer to make their philanthropic expertise available when the advisers are working with clients on their philanthropy.

Genesis of a gift

In August 2007, Jenkins got a phone call from the trust officer at First Citizens inviting her to meet in Wilmington with the trust officer, her 90-year-old client, and the client’s lawyer.

Jenkins was asked to talk about the advantages for the donor of creating a donor advised fund at the North Carolina Community Foundation, compared to creating a private foundation.

By establishing a donor advised fund, Jenkins told them, the donor could avoid the initial and ongoing expense of a broad range of tasks needed to create and operate a private foundation. Those include setting up the foundation and its board; securing charitable status; reviewing grant requests and making grants; complying with tax rules and paying taxes; and accounting for finances.

“A donor advised fund is much simpler than a private foundation,” Jenkins says.

At the North Carolina Community Foundation, a donor pays a annual fee of 1.5 percent of the balance of donor advised funds that are smaller than $1 million. A fund must have at least $10,000 to be created and generally should aim not to fall below that level.

After the meeting, Jenkins was asked to draft a document creating a donor advised fund. The donor’s advisers followed up with a series of questions. And in January 2008, Jenkins met again with the donor and her two advisers in Wilmington, where the donor signed documents creating the Louise Oriole Burevitch Endowment. The initial amount donated to the fund was modest, Jenkins says.

“The idea was after she started the small fund, she would sort of  take us for a test drive and determine whether this charitable vehicle was a fit for her ultimate estate gift,” Jenkins says.

Cultivating relationships

Over the next seven years, Jenkins visited the donor at least three times a year, always letting the trust officer know in advance, and for the initial meetings, always meeting both with the donor and the trust officer. She also talked every three months with the trust officer.

And once a year, she received a list of all the donor’s charitable gifts for the year “so we could learn the pattern of her giving so when the time came we could duplicate that pattern of giving and have this ultimate fund reflect who she was and the charitable interests she was devoted to,” Jenkins says.

Those gifts totaled hundreds of thousand of dollars a year, she says.

The visits with the donor, each lasting an hour or two, were social, Jenkins says, and involved mainly casual conversation about topics of interest to Mrs. Burevitch, often involving care for animals and her dog, Jake, a Shih Tzu. Twice a widow, Mrs. Burevitch had no children.

In her final years, working closely with her professional advisers and the Foundation, Jenkins says, it was Mrs. Burevitch’s clear intent to create the donor advised fund and leave the bulk of her estate to endow it.

Legacy gift

On Sept. 20, 2014, Jenkins received a phone call from the trust officer, who said Mrs. Burevitch had died that day. She was 97

On October 7, the Foundation received a letter from the Estate Settlement Services office at First Citizens. Under her estate plan, the letter said, the Foundation would receive the bulk of Mrs. Burevitch’s estate, to be added to the endowment fund she had created.

Later that month, in a meeting, officials of First Citizens shared documents with officials of the Foundation showing that the bequest would total $20 million.

The Foundation now is creating a committee to administer a grants program to support Mrs. Burevitch’s areas of interest, including animal causes, education, and women and children.

Cultivation, Jenkins says, was key to the bequest.

“Build and nurture your relationships,” she says. “You find out what’s important to that donor, and you listen.”

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