Charitable Giving: All in the Family

By Jan Lane, Development Officer, Central New York Community Foundation

Ron and Margaret Peckham believe you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give. Through the Peckham Family Fund, they are making a life and a legacy in Central New York.

Ron, a former engineer, and Margaret, a retired teacher, have lived in the same house for almost 40 years. Margaret has called Central New York home since birth and Ron has lived here throughout his entire working life. This is also the place where they raised their three children and now host their grandchildren during holidays and family gatherings.

Both Margaret and Ron were raised by parents who instilled in them a strong appreciation for giving back. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that family and community are at the heart of their giving.

“We have three children and we have essentially considered our donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation as our fourth adopted child. The proceeds of our estate will be divided equally among the four of them,” Ron said.

Ron and Margaret have broken their giving down into two phases – what they can do now and what they can do to leave a legacy. Their donor-advised fund, partially funded with current gifts to facilitate their lifetime giving, will enable even greater giving with the eventual addition of their combined estate gift.

This approach allows the couple to directly support to the community causes most important to them while also preparing future generations to perpetuate the couple’s legacy of generosity long after they’re gone.

It is important to them and their children to continue the family’s multi-generational tradition of giving. A common myth is that philanthropy is only for the very wealthy. The reality is that incorporating charity in your plan is achievable for almost everyone.

Ron and Margaret’s story is a great example of one of the myriad ways donors may engage family members in giving. In their case, Ron and Margaret’s successors will have the ability to recommend grants from their fund after they pass away. By discussing their charitable interests and wishes with their children ahead of time, they have created an opportunity for the family to ask questions and gain deeper understanding of their core values.

Other families choose to grant concurrent advisory rights to children or grandchildren, giving them a fixed dollar amount that they can recommend as grants from the family fund. This empowers individual family members to make decisions about organizations they care about while providing a springboard for multi-generational conversations about personal and family philanthropy.

No matter which option is best for your family, talking about giving is a crucial step toward inspiring future generations. Though their fund succession plan won’t be enacted until a future date, Ron and Margaret understand the importance of talking about their giving early and often. Where and why we give is personal. Sharing your stories and experiences, especially those relating to charitable giving and civic engagement, provides an opportunity to clarify what matters most and how you wish to be remembered.

“I hope that our charitable legacy has an impact on our children,” said Margaret. “They already think a lot about other people – in the jobs they’ve selected and the causes they’re interested in – and I hope to pass that on to our grandchildren as well.”

By engaging family members from future generations as successor advisors to the fund, Ron and Margaret are also ensuring that their family’s connection to community impact will live on in Central New York.

Ron and Margaret are among a growing number of community members recognizing the importance of keeping their charitable dollars in Central New York. A study commissioned by the Community Foundation found that $22 billion will change hands from one generation to the next before the start of the next decade, much of it leaving the community to heirs living out of town.

If a five percent portion of those assets transferring between generations were donated to endowment funds at the Central New York Community Foundation, more than $55 million in grants would be available annually to support our region’s nonprofit organizations. This kind of boost could provide a permanent source of funding for local organizations and causes that will greatly improve the lives of our families, friends and future generations.

“This is about a lifelong commitment to the Syracuse community,” said Ron. “My dad used to say, ‘Many hands make light work.’ It’s our collective responsibility to do what we can to make our community a better place to live.”

To learn more about options for preserving your charitable legacy, contact Jan Lane at or visit

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