Leading through a pandemic: Q&A with Jon Abrams, CGP Chair

Posted by kturner on Jan 29, 2021 03:40:06 PM

CGP is pleased to welcome Jon Abrams as the 2021 national board chair. This is Jon’s fourth year on the board. He serves as Director, Gift Planning for the Central Atlantic and Northeast Divisions of the American Red Cross. He is a current member and past president of the Planned Giving Group of New England. In a recent Q&A with CGP, he shared his perspectives and vision for the upcoming year.

What will you focus on during your year as chair?
The board will continue its focus on four important activities. 

The first is to continue the development of and disseminate widely, the National Standards for Gift Planning Success (NSGPS) for the use of the gift planning community. These standards were introduced at the Council Leadership Summit in June and presented to the membership at CGP Conference this fall. They are the culmination of a multi-year effort by leading practitioners to develop standards organized and designed to be user friendly for the fundraiser and an organization’s leadership. The NSGPS task force continues to work on creating broader awareness and programming to help organizations of all sizes evaluate, improve and grow their gift planning programs. Currently, anyone can view an overview of the 16 distinct standards on the CGP website. Also available are some assessment tools to help organizations assess their current program. 

Second is our work on diversity, equity and inclusion. At this past October’s board meeting, we adopted a policy that articulates CGP’s commitment to diversity and set both annual and longer-term goals to make the board, committees, educational offerings and the membership more diverse. The board has committed to developing a culture of diversity by holding the Board of Directors and CEO accountable with specific goals for increasing diversity across all segments of CGP. We were so pleased when through collaboration with the African American Development Officers group, we provided more than 50 CGP Conference and membership scholarships.

Next is to continue our current work, and seek out new partners, to collaborate within all areas of charitable gift planning that would offer opportunities to work together to advance philanthropy and provide services and/or benefits to our members.

Finally, in this very changed environment that we’ve all dealt with these past 10 months, to assure that CGP has the financial resources to continue to provide the excellent educational opportunities, philanthropic advocacy and member services that bring so much value to the gift planning community.


What impact has the pandemic had on CGP? 
Like everyone else, we’ve had to pivot in this very changed environment of no face-to-face meetings. Once the staff moved to a remote work environment to help assure their safety, we carefully planned to assure that CGP had the financial resources to continue to provide our excellent educational opportunities, philanthropic advocacy and member services. With budget cuts at many non-profits and for-profits too, travel restrictions and health concerns, the staff is working hard to respond to the needs of members. To help our members and local councils, CGP extended the membership grace period for 3 months and also provided free resources and town halls. For councils, we provided group webinar offerings, free webinars and resource lists in our council newsletters.


How has the advocacy work of CGP changed in light of the pandemic? 
CGP works tirelessly to advocate for the philanthropic community. While Congress was debating and passing the CARES Act in March and the COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill in December, we successfully promoted including a charitable deduction for non-itemizers in both legislative bills. CGP will continue to endorse increasing the limits on the universal charitable deduction for non-itemizers that is in both versions of the CARES Act. Going forward, we’ll continue to provide a platform for education and conversation with legislators on important issues affecting charitable giving. We will advocate for the Legacy IRA Act which expands the IRA rollover to split-interest gifts. CGP has requested a change to the IRS Form 990 that would record testamentary contributions in Part VIII of the form. This is an important change in that it would help all interested parties gain a better understanding of the extent of “testamentary” support received. And, of course, it’s important that we begin the discussions about the importance of charitable giving and its economic benefits now before the new administration begins to address the tax code.


What will the 2021 CGP Conference look like? 
Boy, I truly wish I had a crystal ball. I can tell you that we will hold CGP Conference in 2021. Right now, we are looking at the possibility of holding both an in-person and virtual conference, as separate events. We hope that the conditions are safe to meet in-person in Orlando, Oct. 4-6 at the Rosen Centre. We will respond to the environment, keeping the safety of our members and staff as the top priority. We will have a separate online CGP Conference again this year and additional information will be available before registration opens later in the spring. 


What excites you about the future of CGP?
What doesn’t! The very thing that has made working in this field during my career so rewarding is still front and center today. The gift planning community does so much to help non-profit organizations offer their supporters the opportunity to accomplish their important philanthropic goals, often at levels of support that they didn’t think possible. I see CGP continuing to grow and strengthen its programs and services in education, advocacy, and local council and individual member support for the benefit of the gift planning community. 


Topics: Membership, Advocacy & Legislation Updates, CGP Conference