The Jewish National Fund, which for more than 15 years has had a donor-advised fund, is now making it easier than ever for individuals to open and manage a fund by putting them all online.
The online feature was launched June 1 and since then the number of donor-advised fund accounts have “more than doubled,” said Matt Bernstein, JNF’s chief planned giving officer. “It has proven to be very popular.” He said there are now about 45 donor-advised funds and that “in the last two weeks we got two $1 million accounts.”
It is still possible to call JNF and have its planned giving staff manage the account, but Judy Feig, the organization’s executive director of planned giving, said the online portal allows 24-hour access for round-the-clock grant giving. The web portal is jnf.donorfirstx.com.
A minimum of $10,000 is needed to open an account, which can be opened by wiring money, sending a check, cash or appreciated stock. JNF works with an investment manager at JPMorgan Chase, and account holders have six investment pools from which to choose for their money — ranging from a money market to 100 percent stocks.
“And in between the extremes we offer a 50-50 combination or bonds,” said Bernstein. “You invest based on your own risk tolerance, And whatever amount you put in your fund, we ask that you earmark 15 percent for JNF projects. So if you open a fund with $100,000, we ask that $15,000 be used to support JNF projects. The projects you choose to support and the timing of the allocations are at your discretion.”
He stressed that where you wish to donate the other $85,000 is up to you, as long as it is recognized as being tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that the organization not be “antithetical to who we are, like say friends of the PLO or white nationalist groups. If you recommend an organization, we will research it first [to make sure it complies]. So hospitals, opera companies, synagogues — wherever you want your money to go — 99.9 percent of the time there won’t be a problem.”
Bernice Friedman, a member of JNF’s national board who just opened an online account, said she opened a donor-advised fund at JNF because “I like that the money is held by a Jewish organization. I am also able to name a successor from my family. And having this fund also gives me and my family a chance to sit down once a year and discuss where we want the funds to go. I get the entire family talking about it, and we encourage other families to do that too.”
Asked what she thinks is the benefit of opening a donor-advised fund with JNF, Friedman replied: “When you have money with a Jewish organization, you tend to think more Jewishly — it’s a mindset.”
And Bernstein said a major advantage of opening a donor-advised fund with JNF rather than with a brokerage house is the savings you will realize.
“You will be saving yourself thousands of dollars in fees,” he explained. “You would be paying upwards of 2 percent with a brokerage house. Our fees are extremely competitive. There is an administrative fee of 0.25 percent annually, and a management fee of 0.65 percent. So the total fee is 0.90 percent — less than 1 percent. … You are going to be giving to a charity anyway, so there is an affinity in coming to us. And to them you are an account, with JNF you are a donor — part of the family.”
Stewart Ain is a staff writer for The New York Jewish Week, NJJN’s sister publication.