Lightening the load to light a new path for giving
This article is featured in the 2023 Raymond James Charitable Annual Report. To read the full annual report, click here.
When generations of dynamic giving through the Sigety family foundation were in danger of being disrupted because of administrative burdens and differing opinions, donor advised funds offered a solution.
The Sigety family has been committed to giving back for more than 80 years, through three generations. Charles Sigety began his career in the military in World War II, used his GI Bill funds to get a degree at Harvard, and earned advanced degrees at Yale and Columbia. He became assistant director of the Federal Housing Authority under President Eisenhower, but for the majority of his career was an entrepreneur.
“Throughout his life, the marriage and interplay of the public and private were very much on his mind,” his grandson, Austin Sigety, says. “His great passion was education, and anything related to learning.”
Charles married Kit Snell, who pioneered home cooking shows during the 1950s in creating, producing and hosting her own national show on NBC. Charles lived to be 91 and Kit 99 – with both involved in hands-on giving until the end of their lives.
Their five children – C. Birge, Kinne, Robert, Cornelius and Elizabeth – continued their legacy of giving through the family foundation started by Charles and Kit, involving their own children as they got older.
While the Sigety siblings were committed to giving, they wanted to encourage the grandchildren generation and beyond to continue to understand the benefits and difficulty of philanthropy. Board meetings, attorney and tax professional fees for the separate tax return, a requirement to distribute 5% every year – these added up to a considerable investment. In addition, the siblings had different goals and priorities when it came to giving, often wanting to give to different charities. Complexity only continued when the private foundation grew to involve more than just the five siblings – with their spouses, children and spouses of those children there were more than 20 people involved, all with their own goals, priorities and different charities they wanted to support.
There were several operational considerations, too. How would the family scale up their giving? Would they need a full-time staff member to run it? What role would technology play in the future of the foundation? How could the foundation give anonymously if desired? And how would they navigate moving forward?
Enter Jeff Locker, an advisor from CrossBay Wealth Management of Raymond James based in Tampa, Florida.
“The benefit of an advisor, in addition to their skills and knowledge, is that they’re a third party who can go in and ask questions and quarterback,” says Austin, the grandson. “It’s nice to have someone that isn’t a family member and isn’t a staff member.”
Locker was able to ask the questions that might have resulted in friction among family members and instead work through their goals and gather the information in an impartial way. Once he understood their main goals, as well as what was weighing the foundation down, he recommended a donor advised fund.
The family foundation was dissolved into individual donor advised funds for each sibling and their family, empowering each in turn to give to their favorite charities – but without the administrative issues. They can also choose to remain anonymous on any grant issued and can each establish their own succession plan by naming either their children or charities to take over their fund.
The Sigety’s have an affinity for education and generations have attended Blair Academy, a private boarding school in New Jersey. Founded by local Presbyterian elders in the spring of 1848 in Blairstown in the northwestern part of the state, Blair Academy is a dynamic, coeducational boarding school where 470 students pursue a superior college preparatory education amid an inclusive, vibrant community. Strong faculty-student relationships lead to exceptional learning and empower students to become persons of great accomplishment and character.
At Blair, students learn to more fully understand themselves and the world, and leadership and service are woven into the Blair experience throughout the curriculum, as well as co-curricular activities, such as our annual Day of Service and community service club that support a host of nonprofits and other causes in the local community.