What kind of world do you want to leave for your children, and your children’s children?
That is a question often asked by potential donors looking to contribute to charitable organizations. Peruse the “Ways to Give – Planned Giving” page of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore’s website, and you will find several options for making a legacy gift — a gift of money or assets, often given after a person’s lifetime, that provides support for years to come.
“Legacies help ensure that we will always be there,” explained Michael Friedman, senior vice president of endowment for The Associated. “Generally, when individuals or families decide to leave a legacy to be remembered by, they will do so with an organization they know, trust and respect.”
Legacy gifts given to The Associated ensure that the work done by the many agencies of The Associated will continue into the future. The work of The Associated’s agencies has been particularly important during the pandemic, Friedman noted, as COVID-19 has exacerbated the mental health crisis and fueled financial insecurity. During the pandemic, legacy giving has also helped ensure Jewish communal life, connecting the Jewish community at a time when the community has been quarantining in order to stay safe.
People who have been giving for a long time are usually the best fit for legacy giving, Friedman said.
To help guide the process, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation created a national program called Life and Legacy to encourage people to leave legacies in the form of an after-lifetime gift. And to help explain the process, The Associated has planning experts who will work with an individual’s, or family’s, attorney, accountant or financial adviser.
Another program designed to encourage legacy giving is the Planned Giving Round Table, which conducts four programs a year. The Associated brings in experts to speak on topics of interest to professional advisers who relate in some way to estate and charitable planning.
Central to the question of why give at all, Friedman said, is “What kind of Jewish world do I want to leave for my children and grandchildren?
“Everyone wants to leave as much as they can to their children, and you want to give them the means to be successful — enough that they can do what they want to do, but not so much that they can do nothing, to paraphrase Warren Buffet,” Friedman said. “And a number of donors I work with definitely subscribe to that notion.”
Anyone can leave a legacy, Friedman said, and anyone can afford to leave a legacy after their lifetime.
Ronnie Footlick, a Baltimore County resident and a member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, is one community member who has decided to leave a legacy gift. She and her two adult daughters now run her parents’ 70-year-old business, but she previously worked as a social worker, which inspired her decision to leave a legacy gift. For the last 40 years, she has also been actively engaged in nonprofit work through The Associated and Sinai Hospital, as well as a few other organizations.
“Because I was a social worker, I was privileged to see the good and the bad in society, and became very interested in a small agency, part of The Associated, at the time the Jewish Vocational Service, which helped Jews who were having trouble getting job placement,” Footlick said.
Footlick served as a volunteer with Jewish Vocational Service and eventually became chair of its board. Jewish Vocational Service has since consolidated with several other social services agencies and is now part of Jewish Community Services.
In addition to her professional and volunteer work, Footlick also found inspiration in her parents’ life story to leave a legacy gift. Her parents came from Philadephia looking for a better life and established a business in Baltimore City.
“My sister and I were the beneficiaries of my parents’ hard work, and we carry their legacy,” she said. “I felt the need to give back because we were so fortunate.”
Footlick also said she wanted to be able to continue giving decades into the future.
“When the centennial campaign was announced, I felt that if I could do something to ensure that 50 years from now someone could be helped, I wanted to be sure I could be part of that, so that’s why I made that gift,” she said. “That is the easiest gift to make. You can always leave something in your will, which doesn’t take effect until after you are gone.
“The reason [The Associated] is still here, 100 years later, is because there were people then worried about us, even though they didn’t know us, and here we are, 100 years later.”