Partnership is Key: The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Sarasota County Bar Association

Categories: EMPOWERMENT AND SUCCESS: Scholarship Opportunities, Professional Advisors, SCHOLARSHIPS: Students Under 24 Years of Age, Students, Education, Legal,

By Amanda R. Kison, Sarasota County Bar Association, 2023-2024 President

Throughout history, many famous duos have emerged that just seem destined to be paired up—think Bert and Ernie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Buzz Lightyear and Woody. These pairs have endured as iconic in large part because of the way they complement one another.

That complementary relationship is one that defines the partnership between our Community Foundation and the Sarasota County Bar Association (SCBA). It is a relationship borne of providing excellent estate planning counsel based on trust, good judgment, and deep expertise.

An Origin Story: Creating Community Connectivity

The Community Foundation was founded by several professional advisors, including key estate planning attorneys in the late 1970s, when the notion of bettering one’s community gained steam. At the time, philanthropists struggled to connect with nonprofits absent an entity that could bring them together. The Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council recognized this need and established the Community Foundation of Sarasota County in 1979.

Ron Skipper, of the law firm Fergeson Skipper and longtime Sarasota County Bar Association member, was one of the seven individuals who founded the Community Foundation. David Steves (longtime SCBA member) and Chip Gaylor (past SCBA president and longtime member), both of Muirhead, Gaylor, Steves and Waskom, served as Board Chairs for the Community Foundation and have been significantly involved with the foundation’s growth throughout the years. While both Skipper and Steves have retired from their careers, their vision and deep commitment to the foundation’s mission carry on and have been central to the strong relationship between the Community Foundation and SCBA.

To this day, estate planning attorneys look to the Community Foundation to assist their clients who wish to create charitable legacies through their estate plans. Clients who elect to establish a legacy fund with the Community Foundation are ensured expert oversight by the foundation in stewarding the client’s charitable intent, which includes a close working relationship with the nonprofit sector that benefits from the client’s charitable gift. These relationships, and the deep knowledge the Community Foundation has of nonprofits and community needs and trends, ensure thoughtful, strategic investments that provide long-lasting impact.

Seeding a Bright Future: Scholarships to Law Students

In 2007, a generous donor created a fund, the SCBA Richard R. Garland Diversity Scholarship Fund, to benefit law students who intend to practice law in Sarasota County. Not only does the scholarship fund provide vital scholarships to aspiring legal professionals, it also supports summer placement in law firms or government agencies in Sarasota County for these students. It may also benefit a graduating high school senior of the Booker High School Law Academy who has been accepted into an accredited college or university.

Over the years, many SCBA members have contributed to this scholarship fund, and since the fund’s inception, $150,000 has been granted. Nearly 30 law school students have benefited individually by receiving up to a $5,000 scholarship and have also obtained an internship/clerkship in Sarasota County during the summer between the student’s second and third year of law school. Eight Booker High School Law Academy students have benefited individually by receiving a $1,000 scholarship.

In addition to the Richard R. Garland Diversity Scholarship Fund, the SCBA also has four other charitable funds held with the Community Foundation. Two are donor advised funds, which provide the SCBA with flexibility in making charitable grants to nonprofit organizations located in Sarasota County on behalf of its members. There is also a SCBA Diversity and Inclusion Fund to support and benefit initiatives of the SCBA, which has awarded $5,550 in grants since its inception in 2019.

The fifth fund was created to honor former Executive Director Jan Jung for her outstanding service to the SCBA. The Jan Jung Fund to Promote the Study of Law in Sarasota Schools was established to support projects or initiatives in Sarasota elementary, middle, or high schools, public or private, that promote law-related education or careers.

Recipe of Reciprocity

Just as the SCBA holds funds with the Community Foundation to support the future of civil society in our region, our Community Foundation also provides support to the SCBA. In 2015, the Community Foundation became a Platinum sponsor of the SCBA, and that support has grown over the years. In addition, the Community Foundation has been the premier event sponsor for much of the SCBA’s signature programming or events, including the Barrister’s Ball.

Also, since 2006, the foundation has offered a three-part Distinguished Speakers Series each year, providing CLE credits and an opportunity for local professional advisors to network and learn from nationally renowned experts in estate planning, trust administration, and tax planning. These speakers travel to Sarasota to present on current wealth, estate, charitable and tax planning trends and topics.