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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Philanthropy can work better by working smarter

By Lori O’Keefe and Jennifer Tolle Whiteside

The Triangle, like much of America, has a lot to be grateful for in this season of giving thanks, but we also face huge challenges.

In addressing them, we are fortunate to be able to work through the philanthropic sector to pool resources and find shared solutions to problems that affect our entire community.

To do that, philanthropy itself needs to do a better job in putting its resources to work.

Our community attracts smart people and innovative employers, and our schools, colleges and universities produce smart graduates and workers, but the region is also home to nagging poverty, poor health, illiteracy and other social ills.

And as this month’s national election showed, our society is divided and in flux regarding who we are, where we come from, and the role we believe government and other institutions should play.

With a damaged economy and elected leaders looking for ways to cut spending, the job of fixing our most urgent social problems will increasingly fall to the social sector.

That sector consists of over 1 million nonprofits throughout the U.S., including thousands that call the Triangle home.

Nationally, nonprofit organizations account for 5 percent of economic output and 10 percent of the workforce.  Charitable giving in the U.S. totals nearly $300 billion a year, with nearly 90 percent coming from individuals who give during their lifetimes and through their family foundations and estates.

Increasingly, however, the work of improving our communities is moving beyond traditional philanthropy.

A small but growing number of companies are building into their business underlying strategies to address social problems that represent an obstacle to their bottom line.

Individuals who want to build a better world, particularly young people and young adults, are looking for social enterprises, whether nonprofit, for-profit or governmental, that are dedicated to improving social and global problems, and that can show, with evidence and data, that their strategies for change actually work.

So today, as we celebrate National Philanthropy Day and prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we have a perfect opportunity to think about how to best tap into the Triangle’s human, social and financial capital and apply it most effectively to fix our most urgent problems.

Our region enjoys a rich mix of nonprofits, philanthropic foundations, corporate giving programs, donors and volunteers, women’s funds and “giving circles,” a rapidly growing form of collective giving that makes it easy for individuals to pool their funds and know-how and contribute it to charities.

The Triangle is also home to a broad range of professional advisers and other groups that work with nonprofits and individuals to help them be more strategic and effective in their charitable work.

Sadly, however, too many charities and other groups working for social good in our region overlap, duplicate one another, or work in isolation as they try to fix these problems that affect all of us.

We have an opportunity now to do a better job thinking and working together to put our knowledge, our time and our money to more effective use and find coordinated strategies to make sure we are making a difference.

How can we better coordinate our abundant resources and put them to work to help ensure that families can lift themselves from poverty, for example, or that kids and adults get the schooling and training they need to find good jobs, or that people in need have access to basic health care, or that women can free themselves and their children from abusive relationships, to name just a few of the huge challenges we face?

Our two organizations are known as community foundations, a hybrid breed of charity that was established in Cleveland nearly a century ago.

Community foundations work with individuals and institutions to create and manage charitable funds that support a broad range of local needs, including specific needs the donors and funders care about.

We function as a kind of philanthropic matchmaker, connecting resources with charities that serve people and places in need.

And we know, based on the work of our own organizations, and of the individuals and groups we serve, that philanthropy in the Triangle can be more effective and make a bigger impact on our biggest problems if we work together in cooperative and strategic ways that will make our community a better place to live and work.

Lori O’Keefe is vice president for philanthropic services and chief operating officer of the Triangle Community Foundation, and Jennifer Tolle Whiteside is president and CEO of the North Carolina Community Foundation.