When Nancy Kieling called to tell us that our donation had put total contributions to the Princeton Area Community Foundation over the $100 million mark, Dick and I were inordinately pleased. Somehow a modest donation suddenly became a significant one. Though its significance was simply a matter of when the mail got delivered, we were delighted at the role we had inadvertently played in the achievement of this milestone.
It has been several decades since Dick and I began serious charitable giving. Early on we drew up lists of priorities, joint and individual. Every year we spent nearly a month writing checks or arranging the mechanics of donating appreciated securities (those were the days when securities actually appreciated). I still have our original card file with the amount of each donation, and I still use it. Along the way, we set up a Charitable Remainder Unitrust, an investment entity that ensures that several organizations would receive substantial gifts when we are both gone—and from which we receive an annual percentage of the total while we are still around. We also created a very modest family fund to which we contribute, but which is entirely run by Dick’s two daughters.
Many years ago, our beleaguered tax adviser suggested that we simplify our bookkeeping, and his, by setting up a donor-advised fund with one of the first investment firms to offer this alternative. We did. The result was entirely satisfying. It was easy to make gifts, easy to track them. In addition, research into new ventures was facilitated through the fund’s web site. We wanted to be intelligently generous, but we also wanted to be efficient. I imagine that this is the goal of those who have set up donor-advised funds with the Princeton Area Community Foundation. One of our future goals is to do the same.
As the years have passed, we have reconsidered and rearranged our priorities often. Especially in the past few years, when our investments lagged, we decided to focus especially on local organizations. Many of those we knew well, but many more we did not. What we needed was an organization whose collective judgment we could trust to put our money to its best use locally, and that of course is the Princeton Area Community Foundation.
It is the “community” aspect that appeals to us in particular. Not only is the focus of the Community Foundation’s efforts regional, but many of its Board members are trusted friends and colleagues. The donations are listed by donor, and not categorized by amount. We have always felt lucky to live in and enjoy the Princeton community. The Community Foundation feels like a community in all the best ways, and we are very happy to be a part of it.