I receive a weekly email with an excel spreadsheet containing a list of campaign pledges entered into our database. The most recent report listed dozens of commitments to our campaign from endowments established by donors to perpetuate their support of the Federation campaign. In other words, donors determined that after they have left this world, their annual commitment to our campaign would live on in perpetuity. They endowed their annual campaign commitments through bequests in their wills, by purchasing a life insurance policy with the Federation as the beneficiary or through sophisticated planned giving tools (our staff has the knowledge and skills to guide anyone around these opportunities).
I’ve been in Pittsburgh for over 22 years, or about 20% of the existence of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Over that time, I have gotten to work with tons of community members. As I reviewed this list, I got emotional seeing the names of those I have known over the years. I remember sitting with one at an IHOP in Florida for breakfast to talk about the community. I used to meet another donor at his office in Foster Plaza over lunch. I would meet with a couple in Pittsburgh in the summer and every winter in Florida at their country club and remember having the discussion about endowing their commitment. One was a past Campaign Chair with whom I worked closely and recall having tons of campaign strategy meetings with in my office over donuts. I remember helping to plan a family trip to Israel for one couple. A past Chair of the Board would always make time for me in his office on Craig Street. The final one to mention lost her life at too young an age. I met with her on her couch in Fox Chapel about a month before she died of cancer. I was dealing with a major community issue early in my tenure as CEO and she offered to help me (I will never forget that show of leadership in her most difficult time).
Americans do not like to talk about death, but as we know, it is an inevitable part of life. Our Foundation Director likes to say that people are ready to have a conversation about leaving a legacy once they can move from saying “if I die” to “when I die”. These incredible donors whom I considered not only community leaders, but friends and confidantes, understood that while none of us is immortal, our names reflecting our good deeds can be. All of these donors’ names will appear in our Honor Roll listing when it is published for our Annual Meeting. Their financial support continues to have an impact on the community they loved.
If you want to learn how you can join me in making your name immortal, please drop me an email at email@example.com. Someone from our staff would love to work with you.
Next Thursday night begins the holiday of Purim. This will be the second consecutive year of muted celebration. Nevertheless, I look forward to hearing the megillah (The Book of Esther) and distributing mishloach manot (gifts of food) to our Federation staff on Friday. Our staff team’s perseverance and hard work has been key to our Federation’s incredible impact, especially through the pandemic. I continue to be in awe of their actions, their intelligence and their passion for our work.