R&R Newkirk has been providing planned giving support services to charities for more than 50 years, and Kathy Sperlak has been an integral part of the Newkirk team for more than half of that time. In January 2018, Sharpe Group and Newkirk announced they are combining services, talent and resources. Moving forward, the two brands will work together to serve the nation’s nonprofit community.
Ms. Sperlak is now an Executive Vice President of Sharpe Group. She recently spoke with Give & Take about her career and her thoughts about how the recent combination of Sharpe Group and R&R Newkirk will enhance the services provided by both brands.
Give & Take: What led you to a career at R&R Newkirk?
Sperlak: After graduating from college with a degree in journalism, I spent several years at a newspaper before taking a job in public relations at a hospital. While working at the hospital during the day, I attended law school in the evenings and graduated just before the 1981 Tax Act was enacted. Given the sweeping changes brought about by the law, I decided to go back to school to earn an LL.M. in tax law.
When a position as a legal editor at R&R Newkirk opened up in 1987, I felt it was the perfect job for me. It combined three things I love: writing, the law and taxes. I know not many people get excited about taxes, but it’s an area that has always interested me. Plus, I would not have to go to court anymore!
One of my first duties at R&R Newkirk was to take charge of The Advisor, a monthly newsletter designed for charities to send to professional advisors in their communities. I still write it today, 30 years later. The Advisor covers new regulations, IRS rulings, as well as tax court and state court rulings and other items of interest to professional advisors.
While Newkirk is known for its many publications designed for donors, we also have a number like The Advisor that are geared toward professional advisors. Helping attorneys, accountants, financial planners and trust officers become familiar with charitable giving techniques often makes these advisors more comfortable when participating in discussions about charitable giving with their clients.
Give & Take: What other services has Newkirk provided through the years?
Sperlak: We have specialized in thoughtful, well-written and technically accurate publications about planned giving to inform and motivate donors. We work with each charity to create communications materials designed for specific audiences on a variety of topics.
We have broadened through the years to keep up with changes in technology by hosting planned giving websites and creating helpful videos on planned giving topics that our clients can share with donors and advisors.
Give & Take: In your opinion, why does R&R Newkirk’s combination with Sharpe Group make sense?
Sperlak: Being with Sharpe gives R&R Newkirk greater exposure. We have been working with the nonprofit community for decades, and awareness of our brand and our services has spread steadily through referrals and word of mouth. However, we could not provide a full range of services because we were not able to consult with charities on an ongoing basis.
Sharpe Group has consultants who can work with charitable boards and provide in-house training of planned giving staff. Sharpe consultants can meet with those in charge of fundraising at nonprofits and explain why investing in planned giving now can have big payoffs in the future.
Sharpe Group also has expertise in data enhancement services to help make sure charities are targeting their communications to the right people at the right time. In return, R&R Newkirk has a huge library of articles that cover just about every planned giving and general estate planningtopic. By combining resources, we will be able to pool our talent, knowledge and experiences to enhance our services to all clients.
Sharpe and Newkirk have always had a similar philosophy about the work we do. We both work with our clients to create communication materials that are designed to meet each charity’s needs. We are honored to provide this service. Moving forward, Sharpe and Newkirk will share Newkirk’s tagline that represents this philosophy: “Serving Those Who Serve Society.”
Everything with the combination of our two companies has worked out beautifully. Everyone gets along, and we are all excited about the future.
Give & Take: What do you like most about what you do?
Sperlak: I love the people I get to interact with. Gift planners are pleasant, outgoing people who are very easy to work with. It takes a special person to do this type of work. Gift planners have to be very personable, and working with people like that makes our role that much more fun. ■