Q&A: ‘The Initial Shock Has Been Absorbed’

Friday, October 16, 2009
by Tamar Snyder Staff Writer As CEO of the FJC - A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, Leonard Glickman oversees the organization’s management of $215 million in assets. During the three-and-a-half years he’s been with the FJC, he’s worked to expand the organization’s fiscal sponsorship program (participation is up 30 percent this year), promote the opening of donor-advised funds, and rebrand the organization’s tagline. Glickman, who spent much of his early career in politics, previously served as president and CEO of HIAS, an international refugee and immigrant services agency, before coming over to the FJC. The Jewish Week sat down with Glickman at his office in Midtown, where he illuminated FJC’s logo (the center of the logo features a “chai,” the Jewish symbol for life), opined about the philanthropic world post-Madoff (FJC wasn’t affected), and his views on the future of Jewish giving. The FJC’s core program is its donor-advised fund. What distinguishes FJC’s donor-advised fund from other offerings available? FJC sees itself as a place that can be much more flexible, innovative, and personal with the donor. We’re one of the few non-commercial — not Fidelity or Vanguard — national donor-advised funds. The donor advised fund [a charitable giving tool that helps manage charitable giving in a tax-efficient, low-cost way] has been around since the beginning of the 20th century. Community foundations created them. They were mostly under the radar, though, until the ‘90s when big brokerage firms caught on. Fidelity’s Charitable Gift Fund quickly grew by leaps and bounds. It made sense. When financial planners were meeting with clients, charitable giving was something to add to the mix during the conversation. Before this, no one knew what a donor-advised fund was. Fidelity and Vanguard, with their huge marketing machines behind them, brought the donor-advised fund to the mass market. What are the advantages to starting a donor-advised fund? At the end of the year, you don’t have to rummage through boxes for tax receipts. It’s a different approach from checkbook philanthropy, where you get an appeal and write a check. Donor-advised funds allow you to be more thoughtful about planning your charitable giving. You can also invest your charitable funds and grow your giving tax-free. Families can come down here and sit and map out what they want to do with their charitable giving. It doesn’t cost extra. Have your donor-advised funds been hard hit by the economy? Our assets have fluctuated, but not nearly as much as others. A lot of our donor-advised funds are in money markets. A lot of people seem to be operating with the “mutual fund mentality,” in which individual investors with mutual funds have not really shifted their assets when the market tanked. It could be that people think of these charitable giving dollars differently. I don’t think they view the funds here as investments per se. When the market was hitting bottom, we thought we’d have hundreds of calls from people wanting to move assets around. But that never developed. Have you seen a decrease in contributions to your donor-advised funds, due to market conditions? Our contributions have remained more or less stable. The market’s up this week, so I’m optimistic. The people who got in the market at the end of last year when it was low and held their stocks are coming up on the one-year clock. Their appreciated stock will probably give them a nice tax bill. We may see a huge wave of donated appreciated stock, so they don’t have to pay capital gains. What is one of the biggest issues facing nonprofits today? There’s a huge need for nonprofits to tap into credit, but tight credit markets continue to pinch the economy. Very few nonprofits have traditional collateral that businesses use to put up for the loans. And there’s no federal agency, like the Small Business Administration, that can provide loans. So in addition to managing donor-advised funds, we became a nonprofit that provides loans to nonprofits. Our philosophy is, ‘It takes one to know one.’ Our Agency Loan Fund provides nonprofits with loans from a few thousand dollars up to $4 million. We allow people to use their donor-advised funds to secure a loan, which is one of the most innovative ways of doing so and is becoming increasingly popular. How has the Jewish philanthropic world changed, post-Madoff? I think the initial shock has been absorbed. The organizations that took a hit in a big way are sorting themselves out. The Madoff affair opened the eyes of those who were not as concerned as they needed to be about fiduciary responsibility of charitable dollars. Obviously if you were affected, you were lax. Some good has come out of it. When we speak to new donors, the first question they ask is, “Were you affected by Madoff?” Fortunately we can say no. Before Madoff, no one really said, “I want to know what your controls are and who are your auditors.” The recent philanthropic headlines have been encouraging: Yeshiva University just dedicated its first new building in 20 years, a $32 million project. The Heschel School received gifts of $75 million, and there are expansions being undertaken at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, the Chabad of the West Side and Chabad of Midtown. What recession? I would set large gifts aside from overall giving. A lot of nonprofits rely heavily on major gifts. A true test is not the contribution of major donors, although that’s important and terrific, but how has general community reacted to giving. A surprisingly large amount of bequests have come from donors who gave relatively small gifts but were loyal to the organization. When organizations get the call from the trustee of the estate, they often go, “Who?” What changes are the philanthropic world undergoing? Giving is changing and the way that people give is changing. Donors want more control over how funds are spent. The younger generation is very in the know with what is happening in the world today. Maybe grandfathers would argue with me, but I think it’s true. On an evolutionary scale, giving is becoming more and more personal than it may have been historically. We’re seeing a lot of bright, new, creative and innovative projects. The nonprofit world has exploded. E-mail: Tamar@jewishweek.org

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