Buckingham Launches Pillar Grant Program as Part of its Philanthropy Efforts

Doing the right thing, evidenced-based action and careful planning have been three critical pillars of Buckingham’s success as a wealth management firm, both in St. Louis and throughout the country. These fundamental pillars will now form the basis for a new philanthropic grant program the firm is launching as part of its long history of contributing to the communities where its associates live and work. The Buckingham Pillar Grant Program has been created to better focus the scope and impact of Buckingham’s philanthropic efforts, which have expanded along with the firm over its more than 20 year history.

“We see this program as a natural evolution of a charitable giving commitment that took root when our firm was much smaller,” says Mont Levy, who co-chairs the firm’s new Pillar Grant Program Committee. “It is our hope that this new program will be well-received in its inaugural year, and will help us to achieve the level of philanthropic reach that a firm like Buckingham can have.”

Levy’s involvement in Buckingham’s latest philanthropic effort is a natural extension of the integral role he has had both within the firm and in the community when it comes to supporting local nonprofits, whether their work is in the arts, community-building, education or direct service projects. “On behalf of the entire firm, I’m so pleased to see the Buckingham Pillar Grant Program become a reality. Over the years, Buckingham’s commitment to our community has grown and we hope that growth, through this program, will to continue into the future. Buckingham recognizes that not-for-profit organizations are an integral part of a healthy and vibrant community,” Levy says.

The firm’s Pillar Grant Program acknowledges that fact and seeks to meaningfully support the nonprofit sector though a more disciplined, structured approach to its charitable giving. “As the firm has grown, as the number of our locations has grown and as requests for charitable gifts from our associates and clients have multiplied, it became clear we needed to do things a little differently,” Levy says.

In 2015, Buckingham will award five to seven Pillar Grants of up to $10,000 each. Each year, the firm will focus on two of six different areas of interest. The areas selected for 2015 are Education and Children and Youth. The four other areas, which will be served over the next two years, are Health, Community Development, People in Crisis and the Environment.

Pillar Grants will be awarded to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations headquartered in the greater metropolitan areas of cities where Buckingham maintains an office (St. Louis, Mo.; Short Hills, N.J.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Houston, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Burlington, Iowa; and Santa Rosa, Palo Alto and Irvine, Calif.). Organizations seeking funding for a specific program or project that addresses a demonstrated need supported by substantial evidence and guided by a written plan are eligible for Pillar Grants. Organizations must also demonstrate how they carry out their own mission by “doing the right thing.” Pillar Grants will not made to capital campaigns or requests solely for general operating support.

“We’re fortunate to have so many outstanding not-for-profit organizations in our community. We know that many of them design their programs with careful planning and based on strong evidence,” Levy says. “Our desire in awarding Pillar Grants is to both shine a spotlight on the best of the best and encourage this kind of approach. Given our belief that Buckingham employs best practices through our evidence-based and planful approach to wealth management, we want to support programs built on the same pillars that have helped our firm succeed.”

The Pillar Grant Program represents a new chapter for Buckingham’s charitable giving program, which began with the firm’s founding in 1994. In addition to their history of lending time and talent to causes important to them, for many years firm leadership, wealth advisors and other associates also gave individually and on behalf of the firm to the organizations and programs they became involved with and cared about deeply.

“As our firm grew and Buckingham began to receive more requests to help a variety of community efforts, we created a fund to respond to as many requests as possible” Levy says. Buckingham also provided a year-end giving effort on behalf of its clients and an employee matching gift policy. Together, these initiatives served as the core of the firm’s charitable giving program for a number of years.

In 2014, firm leadership began discussing a new way to focus its philanthropic giving to expand its impact. The employee matching gift program will continue, as will more general company giving (albeit with stricter guidelines). However, Buckingham’s most significant philanthropic initiative will be focused through the Pillar Grant Program.

Levy says the firm is looking forward to recognizing its inaugural grant awardees and then to evolving the program in the years ahead. “Starting a program from scratch is exciting,” he added. “Although it has been a lot of work, it has given us the opportunity to shape this initiative according to our firm values and to reflect our firm culture.” In addition to engaging its associates to provide input and ideas along the way, the Buckingham Pillar Grant committee also looked to outside resources to guide its effort, including Deb Dubin and the Gateway Center for Giving which provided meaningful input, guidance and great materials.

The deadline for 2015 Pillar Grant applications is September 30, 2015. Winners will be announced by December 15, 2015. In the spirit of creating opportunities for the Buckingham team to learn more about Pillar Grant recipients, awardees will be invited to speak to associates regarding the success and impact of their project or program. In addition, to foster involvement and continuing engagement, Pillar Grant recipients will be asked to discuss volunteer opportunities for Buckingham associates.

“One of the things we’ve always encouraged, and which I hope the Pillar Grant Program will continue to encourage, is community involvement among our associates at the highest level possible. It is through our service to our clients and in our communities that we’ll make a difference” Levy says.

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