Chick and Gayle Weiss: Chick is a former Greater Worcester Community Foundation board member, and as a couple, the Weiss’ are long-time forces for good in the nonprofit community. Last year, they decided to establish a donor-advised fund with the Foundation. The couple chose the Foundation for its knowledge of community issues, philanthropic leadership and flexibility in managing funds.
Greater Worcester Community Foundation: Over the course of your careers, you’ve both been such tremendous advocates for the nonprofit sector. What do you think are the most pressing issues affecting the community where the Foundation can play a role?
Chick: There’s a bunch, but certainly housing has been a chronic issue – housing for the very poor and housing for those who are marginally poor. There are people living on the street and in the worst living situations in buildings which are unsafe for adults and certainly unsafe for children.
Gayle: Related to that, there are issues of mental health, access to mental health and legal services, and access to safe and healthy food which exacerbate housing, and a lot of other problems.
Chick: In particular, mental health services for children is the most difficult kind of care to get. Gayle and I, for many years, have been involved in programs about education for the underserved. Education is the way to a better life and it’s a tremendous challenge … which has gotten worse in the last 11 months as everything is being done remotely. I can’t imagine being a young parent – with or without a job – trying to get your kids online, be supportive, cook and clean, and have relationships. We talk about how challenging life must be for others and how fortunate we’ve been.
GWCF: How do you see the Foundation’s role in addressing these issues?
Gayle: To me, it always starts with how well the community understands the demographics of people in real need and how well nonprofits and other agencies partner to comprehensively address the issues. There’s room to improve coordination and partnerships in the nonprofit community, generally.
GWCF: We know people have a lot of choices how to manage their philanthropy and where they can create a donor-advised fund. You chose GWCF, why?
Gayle: We’ve both been very involved in the nonprofit community for a long time and we’re aware of the Foundation’s really fine reputation. Going through the pandemic, and given our age, we were talking about how, if at all, we wanted to change our estate plans. However, given the immediacy of the need, it seemed to us if we can [establish a fund] now, why not? Since we make gifts to a number of nonprofits, creating a fund at the Foundation gives us flexibility. We’d like to grow this fund over time and have the ability to make gifts where we see the need and/or in areas that are consistent with the Foundation’s goals.
Chick: I know from being on the Board of Directors, [the GWCF team] knows how to manage money. The consultants are outstanding, the Investment Committee is savvy. They’ve been tremendous stewards of the gifts that have come in. If you had to find a place in which to make an investment, this is a smart one – and it affects greater Worcester. Should our interests grow beyond central Worcester, we have the opportunity to direct the funds to wherever we choose and to whatever need we identify.
GWCF: How can the Foundation help you in meeting your philanthropic goals?
Gayle: As Chick said, we view the Foundation as a great vehicle because of the quality of leadership both within the organization and the Board’s governance. That, first and foremost, gives us confidence. In terms of the flexibility, we’ve both been involved on the boards of a lot of nonprofits over the years. Nonprofits can be well-managed or not. If you give a gift directly to a nonprofit and, over time, their leadership changes or they take a direction that you don’t support, your gift is gone. To build up a fund at the Foundation, you know the funds will be well-managed.