TSFF Surprises Bay Area Nonprofits With Biggest Gift of the Year

When St. Anthony Foundation’s Executive Director Barry Stenger met The San Francisco Foundation’s Fred Blackwell for an impromptu lunch, he was expecting good things. “We had received a notification that we were going to get this significant amount of money,$140,000, so I had presumed that the meeting would be to explain this one-time gift, and why we were getting it,” said Stenger, “I was blown away when I found out it was only half of the amount we’d be getting—and that we’d be getting it annually, in perpetuity!”

Fred with Kevin Causey, Barry Stenger, Alan AndersonLeft to right: Kevin Causey, President, St. Francis Foundation; Fred Blackwell; Barry Stenger, Executive Director, St. Anthony Foundation; and Alan Anderson, Director of Development, Shriners for Children—Northern California Chapter gather to celebrate the legacy of Charles Gibbs

St. Anthony Foundation, an organization that helps the poor and homeless in the Tenderloin, is the largest beneficiary of a new $14.5 million permanent endowment fund, one of the largest bequests in TSFF’s 68-year history. The new fund will also support St. Francis Hospital in downtown San Francisco and Shriners for Children—Northern California Chapter in Sacramento. The support, which will be administered through one of the Foundation’s permanent endowment funds, comes from the estate of San Francisco businessman turned philanthropist Charles Gibbs, Jr., a Bay Area native who passed away in 2013.

Mr. Gibbs began his charitable giving partnership with The San Francisco Foundation later in life and first established a donor advised fund at the Foundation for his giving after he was referred to the Foundation by his neighbor and fellow TSFF donor, Richard Essey. By entrusting his bequest, its investment and its stewardship to The San Francisco Foundation, Mr. Gibbs joins nearly 300 bequest donors – Bay Area Promise Society members – who have created endowed funds of all sizes and entrusted part of their philanthropic legacy to TSFF since 1948.

This wasn’t the first time Gibbs had surprised a Bay Area charity with jaw-dropping generosity. At the time of his unexpected passing, he and St. Francis Foundation president Kevin Causey were planning a contribution to the downtown hospital in honor of his longtime doctor, Frank Moliene. Gibbs had been evasive about the scale. “He said ‘It’s probably a lot more money than you think it is,’” Causey recounts. “I never hear that in my line of work.” Days later, Causey received word from Gibbs’ executor that St. Francis would be receiving a donation check by courier—for $5 million.

Gibbs was a hard worker whose fortunes rose as he grew his father’s plumbing business into one of the city’s leading mechanical contractors. A crucial role in some of the city’s biggest projects, including Davies Symphony Hall, St. Mary’s Hospital and Lombard Plaza, dovetailed into a late-life passion for philanthropy. The octogenarian Gibbs often brought his technical expertise into his philanthropic efforts, serving on the design and development team for St. Anthony’s recent expansion, amongst other projects.

His final gift showed a keen instinct for building infrastructure. The $14.5 million endowment, which will be divided amongst the three causes according to Gibbs’ instructions, was provided for their use with no restrictions and no conditions. While every donation dollar is crucial for nonprofits, unrestricted gifts carry an impact that’s hard to underestimate for the organizations they support. Causey puts it plainly: “It’s a godsend for us. Unrestricted dollars are the hardest to raise.”

For Shriners for Children, flexible dollars are a crucial lifeline. Shriners, which moved their main hospital from San Francisco to Sacramento in 1993 and receives less than half of their funding from insurance billing, plans to put a vast majority of the new funding toward the hospital’s specialized pediatric programs. Since they are at the forefront of their field—their closest counterpart is in Cincinnati—Shriners’ needs can outpace the plans of even the most well-intentioned donors. “The funding we have now will only last us five years,” says Alan Anderson, director of development. “An unrestricted gift like Mr. Gibbs’ bequest allows us to promise kids we’ll be there and lets us adjust to the future, whatever our new needs are.”

In addition to his work with TSFF, Gibbs had also been an active contributor to St. Anthony’s in the final years of his life, going so far as to donate the charity a portion of his impressive art collection, heavy on contemporary works by notable artists like Basquiat and Larry Bell, to enliven their conference rooms. His final gift will nearly double the charity’s existing endowment of $9 million, providing a rare opportunity for administrators to work on challenging institutional changes, like raising the minimum wage of their hourly workers to a more livable $15 an hour. Stenger said “It’s going to really allow us to change the structure of the way we do business.”

The San Francisco Foundation is grateful for Mr. Gibbs’ bequest and the opportunity to be part of the incredible work the recipient organizations do every day. While Mr. Gibbs chose to keep his legacy gift confidential during his life, the Foundation works regularly with donors and their advisors to create estate gifts that match their philanthropic legacy goals.

As this transformative bequest personifies, gifts which build in flexibility for use—either as unrestricted gifts to the organization or to TSFF—provide essential support that can be tailored the most pressing needs of the community forever.

Whether you are an individual, family or Professional Advisor working with clients, when you are ready, our Director of Planned Giving, Sindy L. Craig, is available to assist with charitable gift planning options available at the Foundation.