May 27, 2018
Leveraged Legacy Program Garners Great Response

March 15, 2012 — A philanthropist in western Massachusetts is leveraging his philanthropy through an unusual estate legacy giving program that, over five years, has generated nearly $60 million in pledges based on incentives valued at $765,000.

The Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy has awarded incentives totaling $765,000 to 41 Jewish camps, which together have secured 2,278 letters of intent worth nearly $60 million in pledges.

“We are astounded by the numbers,” said Mark Gold, director of the Institute, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, based in West Springfield, that oversees the Camp Legacy program.

Seven more camps joined the camp legacy program this month. Five of the 41 are located in Massachusetts: Camp Avoda in Middlebury, Camp Bauercrest in Amesbury, Camps Eisner in Great Barrington, Camp Ramah of New England in Palmer, and Camp Yavneh based in Newton.

”The camp legacy teams truly earn the incentive grants,” Gold said. Camps that agree to be a part of the program must participate in Legacy training sessions, frequent reviews with a representative from the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy, and a formal donor stewardship program.

The training sessions teach everything from how to ask for a legacy gift to the importance of stewardship, which, according to Gold, is critical to the success of the program.

“With camps we’re dealing with a younger group of donors who may modify their wills several times in their lifetime,” Gold said. “We teach the legacy teams the importance of keeping these donors engaged throughout their lives by truly making them a part of the camp family.”

The program originated five years ago when Harold Grinspoon, a real estate entrepreneur who established the Foundation in 1993, learned about a similar program run by the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego. His plan extended that work from communities to Jewish camps by providing an incentive for camps to start their own legacy giving programs.

Grinspoon said it’s easy for an organization to want to create a legacy giving program, but with the potential return far in the future, camp executives and boards often focus on fundraising that gives a more immediate return.

The program gives the camps that participate an incentive of up to $25,000 to obtain 68 letters of intent over three years. The number is based on camps getting 25 letters of intent during the first year, 25 in the second year, and three-quarters of that number (rounded to 18) in the third year.

As the money begins to come in through legacy pledges, the camps become believers, Gold said: “It’s one thing to expect money in the future, and it’s absolutely another thing to receive a check for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars as the result of a legacy gift made years ago.”

In addition, as legacy donors feel more engaged with the camp they tend to increase their annual contributions as well, according to Gold.

Here’s how the program works:

Camps contact potential legacy donors and get them to sign a letter of intent. Letters of intent vary from camp to camp but all, in one way or the other, state that “I hereby acknowledge that I have made a provision in my estate to leave funds in support of Camp XYZ”.

The camps each have a committee that identifies potential donors, arranges formal meetings with them, and asks for the legacy commitment. As with any fundraising campaign, promotional and other materials are developed to support the effort.

Once camps get the signed letters of intent, they forward them to the Foundation. Incentive payments are based on camps getting the targeted number letters of intent. Once received, the Foundation sends them a check for $10,000 for the first year, $10,000 for the second year, and $5,000 for the third year.

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