Posted January 1st, 1999

After 40 Years in Planned Giving, Sharpe Founder Takes New Direction

After nearly a half century of service spent working in the fields of life insurance, charitable estate planning, publishing, and training, Robert F. Sharpe, Sr., is moving out of an active role in the company he founded over 35 years ago.

Back in the 1950s, Mr. Sharpe was a successful life insurance professional helping people protect themselves and their families with prudent financial planning. It was in the course of this work that he first recognized a need that was not being met at the time. What he discovered in talking with people was that a great many of them had the desire to support charitable organizations and institutions, yet virtually no one had the information they needed to do so effectively.

Mr. Sharpe left the life insurance field and spent the years from 1959-1963 working for an international religious organization, developing ideas in a field then known as “deferred giving.” In 1963, he founded Robert F. Sharpe and Company in St. Louis. Since its move to Memphis in 1965, the Company has grown to become one of the nation’s largest providers of gift and estate planning information for charities and their donors. In 1967, the National Planned Giving Institute was born. Since then, over 28,000 individual seminar registrations have been received.

In 1993, the Institute was given by the Sharpe company to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, where it resides today. At that time, Mr. Sharpe began spending the majority of his time working with the Institute as its executive director. Revenues from the Institute are being used to create the Robert F. and Jane A. Sharpe Professorship in Philanthropy and American Institutions at the College.

Mr. Sharpe’s sons, Robert, Jr., and Timothy, joined the company in 1981 and 1987, respectively, after serving on the staffs of nonprofits in higher education and public broadcasting. Robert Sharpe, Jr., an attorney, has written extensively on a number of gift planning topics. He has been President of the Sharpe company since 1990 and has spearheaded a quintupling of the firm over his 17-year tenure. Timothy staffs the company’s regional office in the Washington, D.C., area and handles a portion of consulting, speaking, and managerial responsibilities. Robert and Timothy Sharpe became the majority shareholders in the company in 1994 and today lead a staff of over 40 persons.

Today and tomorrow

Mr. Sharpe, Sr., will continue his work with the Institute at the College of William and Mary and will continue to write and speak for associations and institutions. He continues to serve on the boards of the Endowment Association of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Inc. and the Memphis Orchestral Society. He has also been inducted into the Society of Entrepreneurs in Memphis. He was recently given a lifetime achievement award by the National Catholic Development Conference at their annual meeting in Toronto.

Our appreciation

The Robert F. Sharpe and Company staff thanks our founder, Robert F. Sharpe, Sr., for his foresight in recognizing a need and creating this company to help meet that need. We recognize him for all the good that has been achieved by the organizations he has served with the resources they have gathered under his guidance. We will continue to carry out our mission of providing the highest quality gift and estate planning information to organizations, institutions, and the people who support them.

[Editor’s note: A new book by Mr. Sharpe, Sr., entitled Planned Giving Simplified: The Gift, the Giver, and the Gift Planner, has recently been published by Wiley Publishers. Copies are available by calling 1-800-249-0179.]

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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