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I'm in the paper!!!

Guided giving brings changes to philanthropy

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

When Benjamin Dickinson gives money to his alma mater, the 27-year-old likes to know it's going toward something near and dear to his heart - Florida Atlantic University's athletics program.

When Rani Garfinkle donates to the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, it's less important for her to know precisely where her money is going, rather that it's helping those who rely on the foundation for help.

The two exemplify the differences nonprofit organizations face when courting donors. The younger generation is more apt to want to know how and where the money will be used; while older donors, like Garfinkle of Boca Raton, leave it up to the nonprofit to determine where the money is best spent.

"The giving research on the older generation shows they are more apt to buy into a communitywide effort and they like process," said Scott Badesch, chief executive of the United Way of Palm Beach County.

The United Way's model encourages people to give to a community fund, which in turn determines where it can best be used.

Garfinkle of Boca Raton has been involved with the federation for 35 years. She describes herself as a die-hard unrestricted donor. Someone has to pay for the things that are "not so sexy" such as keeping the lights on or paying the salaries of those who work at nonprofits.

"For me, the federation is the umbrella turned upside down to catch things that people don't care about," said Garfinkle.

At the same time, Garfinkle understands and is sympathetic to donors who want to follow their money so they can see they are making a difference.

"That's the bonus of designated giving, but it's treacherous if everyone's giving is designated," Garfinkle said.

Giver sees athletics value

Unlike Garfinkle, who is a longtime philanthropist, Dickinson's resources are tight. He graduated three years ago and has student loans. Still, he gives what he can to FAU, usually a few hundred dollars each year.

"I am a firm believer that the success of the athletics program brings more positive press to the university and will bring more applicants to the school," Dickinson reasons.

While the vast majority of large donors place restrictions on their gifts, more and more small donors are starting to follow suit, said Susan Peirce, FAU's vice president of capital campaigns.

"It's more often the annual $100 or $500 gift that's restricted than in the past," Peirce said. "People are looking to make an impact, they want to be partners."

Last year, FAU had 5,195 donors. Seventy percent of the $42.5 million raised came from seven gifts. But just $670,000, about 2 percent, was unrestricted, meaning the university could use it as it saw fit.

New center bridges divide

At the Jewish Federation, the annual campaign has been the organization's lifeblood. But as demand for designated donations rise, the federation is looking for ways to meet the challenge.

One way has been to create the Toby Weinman Palchik Center for Jewish Philanthropy which incorporates annual giving with designated giving. Next month, the center will unveil a plan whereby donors will be provided with an opportunity select from a portfolio of programs and services they want to support.

"We see it as the future of philanthropy in the Jewish world," said Federation President and Chief Executive William Bernstein.

The decision was based on the fact that donors were experiencing "philanthropic fatigue," Bernstein said.

That's not to say the federation will be giving up its annual campaign. The new push is simply designed to supplement it.

Dorothy Seaman, a longtime federation lay leader, recently committed $1 million to the center's Department of Women's Philanthropy, now named in her honor.

Though it was a designated gift, Seaman sees it differently.

"When I gave the money it was with the thought that it could take care of most of their expenses, thereby freeing up more money to give out to individual needs," she said.

Seaman prefers to leave the decision-making to the professionals.

"The highest form of giving is to give the money into a pot where it is distributed by those who have the knowledge to distribute the money to the best of their ability," she said.

Some donors turned away

When strings come attached to donations, it can mean having to say no or finding ways to persuade donors that it may not be the best use of their money.

At the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, more than 50 percent of donations are either restricted or "field of interest" in which a donor will say I want my money to go to a particular cause, such as education or animal rights, but they do not specify an agency or program.

Still, the foundation has had to turn away potential donors. In fact, for every donation they accept, they turn one away, said Foundation President and Chief Executive Shannon Sadler Hull.

Once, she said, they had a donor who wanted to put stipulations on a scholarship that the recipient could not buy a car. The restriction simply didn't make sense, she said.

The United Way faces similar challenges, Badesch said. Often it simply makes more sense to tell a donor to give their money directly to a cause, if that's where they want their money to go.

The federation's Bernstein believes it's all about education. But, he said, "Sometimes we can't accommodate everybody."

~'[email protected]
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Re: I'm in the paper!!!

That is great...Keep up the good work Mrs. Garfinkle.
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