Donald L. Gartner has been preparing for his job all of his life. The new chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County said the job “suits me, meshes with my value system and serves a community need. It’s a good shidduch (match).”
Gartner, a Pennsylvania native, became the chair of the Young Leadership Division of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh when he was in college. Believing the phrase from Pirke Avot that says that “the crown of a good name excels above all else,” that a man is judged by his actions, Gartner embarked on a path that led him to Jewish community work after his military service and has stayed the course ever since.
His career has included stints as executive vice president of the American Associates of Ben Gurion University and executive and fundraising positions with Jewish Federations in San Diego, St. Louis, Baltimore, Des Moines and Pittsburgh. He was the president of Donald L. Gartner Associates Inc. in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he conducted capital, annual and endowment campaigns for religious institutions, schools and hospitals in the United States and Israel.
“Because of assimilation and acculturation, kids need a Jewish education,” Gartner said, and so he focuses on the very concept that is the hallmark of the Foundation – assuring a Jewish tomorrow. This year, as the Foundation turns 30, he wants to tell the organization’s story as much as he can, along with a professional team that includes Myrna Shields, who continues in her position as chief operating officer, and a board of 50 people.
“Myrna is the linchpin that has held this organization together with her knowledge, understanding and commitment,” Gartner said. “The mix of young and mature leaders has come up with a wonderful blend of ideas.”
Founded in 1981, the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County manages funds for the long-term financial needs of the entire community. Bringing together the forces of strategic philanthropy and positive change to enhance and strengthen the Jewish community, it helps people to achieve personal charitable goals with tax savings and provides permanent endowment resources at a minimum of cost. Its mission is to increase current and future support for a vibrant and secure community.
“I want to meet people to tell them how they can benefit tax-wise and meet Jewish needs locally, nationally and internationally,” Gartner said. “I want to tell people how to create a Jewish legacy to educate our children, to care for the elderly, to feed the hungry, to strengthen our Jewish identity, to preserve our culture and heritage, to support our synagogues, to protect and strengthen Israel and Jews around the world, to make a difference in the lives of future generations – through a bequest or other planned gift of any size.”
Historically, Jewish Federation & Family Services has played on ongoing role for the immediate needs of the community, while the Community Foundation works on meeting tomorrow’s needs with planned gifts and helps donors to focus on addressing the long-term aspirations of the community.
“We can become a more vibrant community by meeting the community needs for the future,” Gartner said. “To do this, we partner with the Jewish agencies in town to invest their funds wisely for the future. My job is to strengthen the collaborative efforts with Jewish agencies to strengthen programs.”
As Gartner explained, the Community Foundation is committed to being focused on the interests of its investors and potential investors and is truly donor centered. “We take our lead from our donor partners,” he said. “We partner with donors to help them accomplish their charitable dreams while at the same time taking care of their own family’s needs – by taking full advantage of a variety of government-endorsed incentives designed to motivate charitable giving.”
Committed to tikkun olam (repairing the world), the Community Foundation offers the donor an intimate knowledge of the Jewish community and a passionate commitment to the causes and concerns that resonate with the donor. On that basis the Community Foundation uses its expertise in charitable gift planning, partners with the donor as a change agent and maximizes the impact of charitable giving on the community. At an operating cost of 1.5 percent of its assets, the Community Foundation is proud of its tremendous record of effectiveness and efficiency in delivering millions of dollars in charitable funding throughout the community, according to Gartner.
Charitable gift planning is made up of three elements – a person’s philanthropic goals, personal financial goals and a choice of assets available. From there the Community Foundation works with the donor to develop vehicles of charitable giving, meeting tomorrow’s needs by means of planned gifts.
Donor-advised funds can be used as a “philanthropic bank,” in which a donor uses individual charitable funds created in his or her name to fulfill philanthropic goals to pay for donations to Jewish Federation, Jewish education, Heritage Pointe or one’s synagogue, Gartner explained. Donors can use cash, stock or other property to establish the funds and receive an immediate tax deduction. These funds enable the donor to make a tax-deductible contribution when it is most convenient and then recommend gifts over time to 501(c)(3) organizations in both the Jewish and secular communities.
Charitable gift annuities have become even more popular in the current economic environment, creating a win-win situation for the donor and the charities he designates as beneficiaries. The donor uses cash or other assets to the Jewish Community Foundation to fund the annuity and receives an immediate income tax deduction. The donor also receives quarterly payments that equal a percentage of the gift as determined by age and other factors. He or she reduces estate taxes while leaving a meaningful and personal legacy in perpetuity with the principal funds in the annuity.
Gartner is in the process of working with lay and professional leadership to develop a five-year strategic plan for the Foundation. “This is the right place to be at this time – living in Orange County, trying to create and maintain a vibrant Jewish community,” he concluded.