A local program that helps Jewish organizations approach their donors for legacy gifts, or bequests, has surpassed its first-year goal, securing more than 300 commitments at an estimated future value of $11.2 million.
A program of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ in partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the Create a Jewish Legacy program provides training, mentorship, marketing, and a $10,000 incentive grant to each partner organization that meets its yearly goal.
Launched one year ago, it has signed on 15 local Jewish organizations, including synagogues, a day school, and local Jewish agencies (see box).
“These places touch our lives on a regular basis, and it’s imperative that we help secure them for future generations,” said program coordinator Karen Secular. “A legacy or planned gift is something you set up today that is only realized in the future, after you pass away. It becomes part of your estate plan, and it directly benefits the organizations you care about.”
Secular tells the story of a woman who was deeply involved in her synagogue for decades. She expressed to her rabbi that she wished she had more to contribute to the congregation’s annual appeal but that all she had was the condo she lived in, which she was planning to leave to her three grown children. Her rabbi, a participant in CJL, suggested she might consider splitting the value of her condo four ways in her will, leaving the fourth quarter to the synagogue. The donor and her children loved the idea.
Local agencies appreciate the boost from the program.
“We had been talking internally about establishing a legacy program but we weren’t sure how to go about it,” said Reuben Rotman, executive director of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest. “We are so grateful to have been included in the first CJL cohort. The training, guidance, and structure that CJL has given our team of volunteers and staff members have helped us to establish a true legacy initiative.”
JFS MetroWest secured 20 signed commitments in the first year.
“We now feel much better equipped to incorporate legacy giving as part of our overall development efforts,” said Rotman.
This is a common thread among participating organizations. As Ken Heyman, the program’s inaugural chair, pointed out, CJL is meeting a need for grassroots training in the area of legacy giving.
What was originally planned as a two-year program will be extended in order to fully incorporate legacy giving into the fabric of each partner’s overall fund-raising, organizers said. The goal is to help Jewish organizations secure their futures at a time when the largest transfer of wealth in our country’s history is taking place.
“CJL has been a culture-changing program for our community,” said Rabbi Menashe East of Mount Freedom Jewish Center in Randolph. “We were a bit of a mom-and-pop shop in terms of keeping the community financially afloat. CJL has professionalized us and given us a real sense of purpose and know-how in securing our future.”
CJL plans to take on a second group of partner organizations in the near future.
CJL represents “an important step forward for our community,” said Heyman. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the results of the program after only 12 months. Our agencies, synagogues, and foundation are working to make legacy giving a part of every charitable conversation. Our community recognizes that without these gifts our future is at risk.
“We at JCF are grateful to partner with the Grinspoon Foundation to provide a path for people who really care about these organizations to help shape their futures.”
In celebration of the first year’s success, JCF will host a recognition breakfast for all CJL team members and leaders of the partner organizations on Wednesday, July 29. A community-wide celebration in the fall will recognize all legacy donors.