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Fund sows seeds

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Susan Worrel is moving fast to gear up for a long haul.

Since being named planned giving director for the Foundation for the Charlotte Jewish Community in February, Worrel has met with the region’s big Jewish agencies and with individuals to talk about the long-term benefits of making deferred gifts through wills, trusts and estate planning.

But as a nonprofit veteran who raised money for Jewish groups in Houston and in Birmingham, Ala., Worrel knows it can take 15 years before a planned-giving program begins to generate a steady stream of realized gifts.

And she says Charlotte’s Jewish community, totaling an estimated 10,000 individuals, has laid the groundwork for planned giving by building a solid base of annual giving.

“The Jewish community is exceptionally strong at raising money on an annual basis, and at filling the needs of capital campaigns,” she says. “What we haven’t done such a good job of here in Charlotte is recognizing the need to plan further out, to create charitable resources that will be more long-term and will sustain us for a much longer period of time.”

Her job is to help Jewish agencies build their endowments through planned giving, and to generate planned gifts for the foundation, which is housed at the Foundation for the Carolinas and by the end of the year will have assets of roughly $16 million.

Those goals represent a shift for the foundation, she says, which previously had focused on creating and building an endowment for the Jewish community that would function as “one big pot of funds” to support local Jewish causes.

But persuading Jewish agencies and donors that a single endowment would benefit them was tough, she says, and so the foundation has opted instead to serve as a community resource, educating agencies and donors about planned giving, and helping them solicit and make gifts.

“We’re there to jump-start the various organizations in their own planned-giving programs,” says Bob Abel, the foundation’s board chair.

Worrel already has met with staff and board members of Jewish agencies in Charlotte, including the seven biggest in the region, and connected two of them with Fund Evaluation Group, a Cincinnati-based consultant to the Foundation for the Carolinas that provides investment advice and research.

As a result of those conversations, the Jewish Community Center and the Foundation of Shalom Park both have transferred to the foundation their endowments of $3 million each.

She also has worked with smaller agencies such as the Hebrew Cemetery Association, for which she helped create materials it can use to solicit gifts and promote awareness about its planned-giving program.

To spread the word about planned giving, Worrel also held two forums last April for lay and professional leaders of local Jewish agencies, and this fall and winter is holding a series of workshops for donors, including a session on wills Jan. 11 at Temple Beth El and another on estate planning March 18 at the Jewish Community Center.

“The role that we can play,” she says, “is helping to ensure that the successes this community has already realized continue well into the future, that we truly create a Jewish legacy here in Charlotte.”

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