“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Winston Churchill may have said it first, but Ron Garfunkel has adopted these words as his personal philosophy. Ron has always been a giver. Early in his career, he gave what he could to the organizations whose work spoke to him. As his success in business grew, he gave more and more, and the list of organizations he was able to support expanded. “I’m very fortunate at this point in my life to have the resources to give back in a way that provides impact long into the future.”
When his father died, Ron recognized that as much as one might give during their lifetime, there are often far more assets held in people’s estates when they pass on—assets that can be used not only to give more, but to give for years to come.
Ron talked to his mother about using her individual retirement account (IRA) assets for charitable giving. She agreed, and when she, too, passed away he established a donor-advised fund, which enabled him to give more than ever to the many organizations with which he has long-standing relationships and close connections.
Ron appreciates giving through his donor-advised fund during his lifetime because it gives him flexibility to make grants to any nonprofits he chooses anywhere in the United States, including several in and around his Washington, Connecticut home and others in New York City where he spent his career. But he also chose to establish his fund at Connecticut Community Foundation because he values the Foundation’s knowledge of community needs and help in introducing him to organizations that he doesn’t yet know but that are doing important and effective work that would benefit from his support.
That’s why when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ron looked to the Foundation. He was particularly interested in providing resources to organizations that were providing for basic needs of food, shelter, child care, and health care. The COVID-19 Response Fund—launched jointly by Connecticut Community Foundation and the United Way of Greater Waterbury—was a natural fit, as it was pooling funds from many sources and making grants rapidly on a rolling basis to support precisely the sort of work Ron had in mind throughout the Foundation’s 21-town region. As Ron says, “The reason I give to the community foundation is that they vet these organizations. They are up to date with the finances and the management of these groups… That’s the purpose of the Foundation. They know the community better than anybody.”
Ron made a substantial grant from his donor-advised fund to the COVID-19 Response Fund early in the pandemic, and then a second as he saw community need remaining high. Last fall, as the Foundation laid plans to support the community as it ultimately came out of the pandemic, Ron dug still deeper—this time not only relying on his donor-advised fund but also making a rollover gift from his own IRA—to become one of a small handful of lead donors whose gifts established the COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Fund at the Foundation. That fund—which has grown with infusions from the Foundation’s assets and the gifts of many other donors who followed Ron’s example—will continue to support basic needs where they persist, while also helping local nonprofits to build their capacity and emerge stronger from the pandemic. It is also investing in efforts to improve local systems for delivering services so the community is better positioned to support local residents effectively and equitably.
Not content with all he has done already, Ron and his wife Sande Breakstone plan to give still more after their lifetimes through a permanent fund that will be funded through estate assets. That fund will be unrestricted, meaning Ron and Sande trust the Foundation to deploy the fund’s resources wherever they are most needed in the community for generations to come.
If Churchill was right and we make a life by what we give, Ron Garfunkel has made some life indeed— and we are all benefiting from it.