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Life & Legacy gives organizations a roadmap for building endowments

By Laura Porter

Eleven Jewish organiations in Central Massachusetts make up the fifth cohort to participate in the Life & Legacy partnership program run by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

The four-year program trains laypeople within Jewish community organizations to build their individual endowments by “securing planned gifts and integrating legacy giving into the community’s philanthropic culture,” notes the Grinspoon website.

The intention is to ensure the future of Jewish institutions – synagogues, day schools, and social service organizations.

In the four years since the program’s inception, says Leah C. Shuldiner, coordinator of Life & Legacy for the Central Mass. area, 35 communities, including Western Mass., and 12 Hillel campus affiliates have been involved, representing 391 Jewish organizations. Those communities have secured 11,343 legacy commitments with an estimated value of more than $450.5 million in future gifts. In addition, as of Sept. 30, 2016, $28.6 million has been raised in realized gifts, primarily through cash endowments.

The Central Mass. cohort, which began training last November, includes Temples Emanuel Sinai and Israel; Congregations Beth Israel, B’nai Shalom and Shaarai Torah West; Beth Tikvah Synagogue; the Worcester Jewish Community Center; Jewish Family & Children’s Service; the Jewish Healthcare Center; Clark University Hillel; and the Jewish Federation of Central Mass.

Arlene Schiff, director of Life & Legacy at the Grinspoon Foundation, is the national consultant for the local group. She has and will continue to give workshops about approaching potential donors, marketing the program and stewardship, among other topics. Shuldiner is on site in the Federation office in Worcester to answer questions and provide support.

Throughout the program’s four-year duration, Life & Legacy offers not only encouragement but also monetary incentives to the institutions involved.

The process is relatively simple. Beginning with their board members, Life & Legacy representatives meet with their respective organizations’ “most loyal people – donors, volunteers, participants” – to ask them to consider making legacy commitments, says Shuldiner, each with a goal of securing 18 gifts every year. The intention is to create a culture of legacy-giving.

Ultimately, financial stability will be assured, with institutions far less dependent on yearly fundraising and capital campaigns.

“It opens up giving to a much broader group of people, people who could not be major donors or capital campaign givers, but they do have the potential to make after lifetime gifts,” Shuldiner says.

One of the critical benefits of the Life & Legacy program is that it allows small organizations to secure their future without taking time and resources away from current obligations. Life & Legacy “gives them a roadmap,” to help in “investing today for tomorrow.”

Indeed, says Allison Orenstein, president of Congregation B’nai Shalom, “the one-year and five-year congregational needs are always present. By contrast, this program allows us to create a pathway to the 25- and 30-year plans.”

A relatively young congregation, Congregation B’nai Shalom recognized that “it was time in our lifecycle to begin legacy and endowment planning,” she continues. “By participating in the Life & Legacy program, we can learn how to have conversations with our congregants about giving opportunities that may not be in the forefront of their minds.”

Statistics bear out the importance of building endowment. Philanthropic advisors predict that if 20 percent of the operating budget is not coming from endowment by 2025 then an organization will be in financial crisis. “Annual giving will not be able to keep up,” said Shuldiner.

Shuldiner is thrilled to be “part of this program that twenty to thirty years from now will be starting to bear fruit. You do the work now and by the time the organization is doing well, I’ll be long gone. It’s really exciting.”

Support from the Federation and the Grinspoon Foundation has been “the underpinning for a phenomenal opportunity,” says Allison Orenstein. “We are tapping into a new approach — new to us — that will allow us to create a long-term plan for financial stability for our congregation.”

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