Charity Magazine

Major Gifts: It’s About Relationships

Posted on the 21 September 2012 by Paullanning @paullanning

One of the great pleasures in working with nonprofits is being part of the excitement of a monumental announcement. Yesterday one of my clients, the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, announced the largest gift in its 30-year history. A donor bequeathed $4.8 million to the Foundation to assist the 16 public schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District with critical needs in this era of dramatic budget cuts, as well as to establish an endowment in the donor’s name, honoring her parents’ legacy while providing ongoing individualized mentoring in the arts for underprivileged children in these schools.

The magnitude of this gift underscores the fact that donors are out there. They may not be well-known. They may not even be alumni of the schools they choose to support. But they are out there. It’s all about building relationships.

This gift came from a lady who, according to her attorneys, lived a simple life in an apartment in Pacific Palisades until her passing last December. She leaves behind more than $15 million to charitable causes, including nearly one-third of that in this gift to the public schools in two neighboring cities. This gift came from someone who did not go to school or have children who went to school in the District. Rather, it same as a result of relationships the SMMEF Executive Director, Linda Greenberg Gross, has developed over time with the donor’s estate attorneys and the executor of the will – all of whom are former parents in the SMMUSD. It was these relationships that led to a multi-million dollar gift for the District from a non-alumna.

Here is the text of Greenberg Gross’s speech delivered last night to the Board of Education, announcing the gift:

SMMEF Check Presentation

The ceremonial check presentation at the SMMUSD Board of Education meeting, Sept. 20, 2012

I’m joined here at the podium by Superintendent Sandra Lyon, Education Foundation Board President Wendy Sidley, and PTA Council President Patti Braun to make an announcement that impacts all of us, and all of you.

I’m pleased and proud to announce that the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation has been named as the recipient of an estate gift totaling $4.8 million.

This historic gift for the Education Foundation and the District was finalized this morning, and tonight we are able to announce it publicly.  This is the single largest gift in the 30-year history of the Education Foundation.

Per the donor’s wishes, the gift will be allocated as follows:

  • $2.4 million has been designated to establish an arts endowment for the purpose of providing semi-private music instruction, as well as the purchase and maintenance of musical instruments, for economically disadvantaged students throughout the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.  The newly-created endowment will be known as the Peggy Bergmann Arts Endowment Fund, in memory of Lenore Bergmann and John Elmer Bergmann.
  • $2.4 million has been designated as current-use dollars to address SMMEF’s critical needs within the District.  During the coming months, Superintendent Sandra Lyon will be working with the newly-formed Superintendent’s Advisory Council, made up of District, Foundation, and community leaders, to assess the District’s most critical needs in determining the best and most impactful use of these dollars.

This is a truly transformative gift for the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation and our efforts to support every student at every school in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. This gift will help us continue the great work that is already happening in our schools, and it will ensure that programs throughout our District can continue in these difficult economic times.

This gift comes as the result of relationships, and the desire of the donor to make a positive impact with her accumulated wealth. As we heard from our consultant Dr. Lanning at the School Board meeting in June, major gifts and planned gifts must become the focus of the Education Foundation as we implement the centralized fundraising model for this district.  Those types of gifts – transformational gifts like this one we are announcing tonight – happen as the result of long-term relationships.

Tonight, after many months of work with Ms. Bergmann’s Santa Monica-based attorneys and the executor of her estate – all of whom are past parents in our District – that work bears fruit for the Education Foundation and, ultimately, for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to so many people whose leadership and guidance have been instrumental in our ability to attract a gift of this magnitude. While the negotiations have been completely confidential, the support of a number of people has been required for us to succeed. In particular, I’d like to thank Bruce and Sonya Sultan, the attorneys for the estate, for their support and enthusiasm for the Education Foundation and this District.  At this time I would like to invite them to the podium for a presentation of the check, a photo opportunity and to accept the gratitude of the School Board.

In closing, I would like to also thank the members of the Education Foundation Board of Directors, especially past President Jody Brooks and our new President Wendy Sidley, and of course our Superintendent, Sandra Lyon.

This is an exciting day for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and the Education Foundation, and I’m so excited and proud to share this news, and to continue to support the great work this District does for children. Thank you!

For more information:

Education Foundation announces largest gift in its 30-year history

Media coverage:

Los Angeles Times article

Santa Monica Patch article

Santa Monica Mirror article

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