You, too, can establish a donor-advised fund

For as little as $5,000, you can have a fund with your name on it.

“However, it doesn’t belong to you anymore,” explains Lisa Gurwitch, executive director of the Jewish Community Endow-ment Fund of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Feder-ation. “You have the privilege of making grant recommendations to the charities you’re interested in, and they’re reviewed by the board of the federation.”

There are more than 6,000 currently approved charities, all of which are viewable online, and “more are added every month,” Gurwitch says. Along with local Jewish organizations such as the federation, among the more popular recipients are people’s alma maters and museums.

At the Jewish Community Found-ation of the Greater East Bay, executive director Lisa Tabak says donor-advised funds are the most popular of its grant-making programs. Through the donor-advised funds and other forms of charitable giving, JCF disburses around $10 million in grants annually, with 86 percent of that total going to Jewish causes.

“Since we’re ’boutique-sized,’ we’re able to extend personal service to each of our donor-advised funders,” Tabak notes. “If someone has an interest, such as youth at risk, we do the due diligence and come up with options and make recommendations. We’re here to help them make the best-educated decision they can.”

Both Gurwitch and Tabak stress that a donor-advised fund is a different charitable financial instrument than a traditional endowment.

“It’s not an endowment the way people think about it — when you invest the principle and only spend the income,” Gurwitch notes. “Donor-advised funds don’t have that restriction.”

Because of tax consequences, and other specifics and stipulations of donor-advised funds, it is strongly recommended that financial advisers and attorneys be consulted when the funds are established.

“Someone will get an unexpected windfall, like an inheritance,” Gurwitch says, “or a family will have a small, private foundation, and it’s not effective for them to manage it anymore. They find this is a more effective way for them to engage in philanthropy, and we work with them to convert the private foundation into a donor-advised fund.”

The most common items used to endow donor-advised funds are cash or appreciated securities, though real estate, silver, jewelry and art may be used as well.

“Perhaps someone’s life situation changes in a way that creates tax consequences,” Tabak says. “Maybe someone will sell a business, and the amount of money they realize that year makes them look like a trillionaire. We come up with solutions for those people who are charity-minded.”

Adds Gurwitch: “A lot of times people think philanthropy is just for the wealthy. It’s not. Doing a donor-advised fund lets people get more involved, and think about what they’re giving to, instead of just writing a check.”

Establishing a fund at JCEF is as easy as going online, to www., clicking on “Planned Giving Options,” and from the menu choosing from select “Donor-Advised Funds.”(Instructions show how to download a one-page form.) Or you can call (415) 512-6221, and forms will be mailed.

JCF, serving the East Bay, is a smaller operation, Tabak acknowledges. Its Web site,, although informative about the various giving options (click on “Giving With Us,” then “Setting up a Fund” to read comprehensive explanations), is not yet outfitted with downloadable forms.

Nevertheless, Tabak invites anyone interested to give her a call, at (510) 433-0134, extension 220. “I love meeting people who want to do this,” she says. “The actual process takes a few steps, so I like to discuss those with them.”