When I started at the Community Foundation 27 years ago, I spent 60% of my time marketing the Foundation to professional advisors – attorneys, accountants, trust officers, and financial advisors. 

The Foundation was only three years old, so no one knew much about what a community foundation was or the fact that there were already 32 community foundations in Pennsylvania and 800 nationwide. 

Many of the advisors thanked me for the introduction to the Community Foundation but made it clear that their professional practice did not include estate planning, and they would probably never be able to refer someone. Even so, over the past 27 years, many of those advisors who thought they would never have a client who would be able to work with the Foundation have since helped their clients establish funds with us.  

I was not raised here, but one of the things I love about Berks County is the philanthropic nature of the community. I have witnessed firsthand people rallying to support a nonprofit organization that was struggling financially or a family or individual in need of help. The people I see helping are not high wealth individuals. They are regular folks who want to make people’s lives easier. You don’t see that in every community. 

What I have found even more special is the inconspicuous nature of giving in this community. We established the Franklin Society over 15 years ago, – a legacy society to recognize those who have considered the Community Foundation in their estate plan. When we work with individuals on setting up a testamentary fund (one that will be funded upon their passing), we always ask if they would like to join the Franklin Society.  

Since the Community Foundation was founded 30 years ago, 55 funds have been established as an estate bequest. We have worked with 90 other individuals who have named the Foundation in their estate plans. 

Of those donors, we still only have twenty members of the Franklin Society. Berks Countians don’t give for recognition; they give to make sure something happens to benefit their community.  

Even through economic downturns like 2008, the community did not stop giving. Those that could give gave more because they knew others were struggling.  

It is that kind of philanthropic spirit that makes Berks County a special place.