Most gift planners can only dream about it — a life estate gift annuity funded with the remainder value of a California oceanside estate that eventually sells for $25 million. Though the sheer magnitude of the gift was the focus of much media attention, Give & Take found that the more important story here for gift planners is a lesson in how to establish and maintain relationships with donors, as well as how to continue to utilize the talents of retired gift planners.
The donor: The late Ruth Tippett of Del Mar, California, a former lyric soprano who performed in Europe and the United States.
The gift: A life estate gift annuity funded with the remainder value of her home, Tippett Hall, to benefit Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.
About the gift property: Tippett Hall, completed by Mrs. Tippett and her husband in 1938, sits on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The seaside estate was featured in a 1969 issue of Architectural Digest. Covering 5.6 acres, the estate recently sold to an anonymous buyer for $25 million following Mrs. Tippett’s death in 1999—the largest sale price for a residence in San Diego county history.
About the gift planners: Sandra Ciallella, the current senior director of gift planning for Scripps, credits her predecessor, Bob Weber, for cultivating the Tippett gift. “There is no question in my mind that he is the reason we received this incredible gift,” Ms. Ciallella said. “Bob really had the relationship with her and she really wanted to deal only with him. Even after he retired, he would come back and consult with us and he would visit Mrs. Tippett as well.”
Mr. Weber, who retired from Scripps in 1997 and still works with the foundation on a consulting basis, said that Mrs. Tippett had become a very good friend over the years. “The first gift Sally made was a charitable remainder annuity trust in the early ’90s,” Mr. Weber explained. “One of our policies here is to hand deliver all trust and annuity checks, so I saw her every month when I delivered her check. I think this was my entree into developing a good relationship with her which later led to this larger gift.”
The donor’s motivation: “Mrs. Tippett loved the hospital because that’s where she received all her medical care and she had developed close relationships with her doctors,” Ms. Ciallella said. “Her doctors were key in helping develop this relationship which led to the gift.”
The evolution of the gift: According to Mr. Weber, Mrs. Tippett’s first significant gift of a CRAT was a result of her charitable intent and Scripps’ continuous cultivation of the professional financial planning community. Mrs. Tippett’s personal financial planner was a friend of Scripps and had learned of CRATs through the foundation’s communication efforts aimed at planning professionals in the San Diego area.
“Somewhere along the line we had planted the seed with her advisor that CRATs could benefit donors by paying income on their gift,” Mr. Weber said. “He then discussed this option with his client, Mrs. Tippett.”
In appreciation for the CRAT, Scripps held a luncheon for Mrs. Tippett and invited several of her close friends. Mr. Weber recalled, “I’ll never forget at that luncheon Sally mentioned that a friend of hers had told her about an idea where someone could donate their home to a charity and continue to live there for the rest of their life. That was the beginning of the life estate gift. It took about two more years of discussion and negotiation before the gift was completed.”
Message to gift planners: The life estate gift annuity was completed at approximately the same time Mr. Weber retired and Ms. Ciallella took over his position with Scripps. Ms. Ciallella said she has learned important lessons from Mr. Weber both during his full-time position with Scripps and his continued consulting during his retirement. “Bob is my mentor. It has been an unbelievable experience and I don’t know what I would do without him,” Ms. Ciallella said. “I think this gift proves that the key to planned giving is building and sustaining relationships with donors and in some cases their advisors. Had Bob not nurtured the relationship with Mrs. Tippett after she completed the CRAT, she would have never gone forward with the life estate gift annuity,” she noted.
Ms. Ciallella added, “The other lesson that has been important for me is the stewardship of the gift after the donor passes away. My feeling is that it is now my role to ensure that this institution follows Mrs. Tippett’s wishes.”
For Mr. Weber, continuing to work with Scripps into his retirement has been fulfilling. He enjoys keeping in touch with donors he has worked with, whom he calls “old friends.”
“I think the big part of planned giving is personal contact,” Mr. Weber said. “I would tell other nonprofit organizations that if they have someone who has been instrumental in making a lot of friends and a lot of gifts, you may want to consider keeping them on the team in some manner so that they can continue those relationships.”