Passing Your Values to the Next Generation: The Benjamin Family Foundation

David and Laurie Benjamin with their children

David and Laurie Benjamin with their children, David and Elizabeth

If young people start giving early, it’s habit forming. David and Laurie Benjamin

Community Foundation for Monterey County staff recently spoke with David Benjamin about his family’s philanthropy and their choice to include their grown children in the process. David and Laurie Benjamin have been donor advised fund holders since 1999. They recently converted their endowed fund to the Benjamin Family Foundation, a non-endowed donor advised fund at the CFMC.

How did you get involved with the CFMC?

“We’ve been involved in the foundation for many years. I was asked to serve on the board by (then board chair) Sherri McCullough in 1993. I’ve been on the investment committee ever since. That’s an extremely important committee because the performance of investments dictates how much we’re able to give back to the community.”

What are the benefits of being a fund holder?

“With a donor advised fund, there’s a lot of flexibility. You can give in state or out of state. The staff is extremely helpful from an administrative standpoint. Converting from an endowed to non-endowed fund provides even more flexibility.” (With a non-endowed fund donor advisors can recommend grants up to the full value of the fund.)

Why did you create the Benjamin Family Foundation at the CFMC rather than a private foundation?

“The laws favor the donor advised fund model. We especially appreciate the administrative part. A private foundation must be quite large to be efficient. The CFMC acts as our (virtual) staff. It’s a lot more convenient to have the community foundation as a philanthropic partner.”

What values did you want to pass down to your children?

“We’ve gotten a great deal of joy and satisfaction from our giving. We believe it’s important to demonstrate to your children what you believe in. Most kids in their 20s don’t spend a lot of time thinking about philanthropy. We felt one of the things we could do for them was to introduce them to the process.”

The Benjamins’ children, Elizabeth, 27 and David, 25 both reside in New York City, and are involved in supporting nonprofits. Their parents invited them to meet with CFMC staff Dan Baldwin and Christine Dawson on a recent visit to talk about the fund.

“They thought it was pretty cool. They’re looking forward to getting involved. If young people start giving early, it’s habit forming. We think they’ll enjoy it. Now’s the time – we’re delighted.”

Note: David is a former CFMC board member (1993-1998), served as Board Chair (1997-1998) and serves on the Investment Committee. Laurie is active in the Women’s Fund. The Benjamins received the CFMC Distinguished Trustee Award in 2012 for their support of local nonprofit organizations in the areas of health, education, environment and animal welfare.