If Not Now, When?

Building a PJ Library Endowment in Kansas City

By Derek Gale


There we were at the PJ Library International Conference in Springfield, Massachusetts, with a room full of colleagues waiting to hear our response to Harold Grinspoon, the 90-year-old founder of PJ Library.


I shared with the group that a board member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City (and proud PJ Library parent) had approached our team to see if his family’s foundation could make a significant gift to PJ Library. As soon as I finished, Harold raised his hand to ask, “Why did you wait for them to approach you? Why wait?”

It was a fair question. We’d been talking about building an endowment for PJ Library but had only recently gotten serious about making a plan to ask our benefactors to consider making significant multiyear gifts. There was no right answer to Harold’s question about timing, but his point was well made. There’s no time like the present; waiting only results in missed opportunities.

At that time, PJ Library in Kansas City had been active for 10 years. The program was established, popular, and respected in the community, yet annual fundraising for PJ Library on top of all other campaigns was a chore, and there were no guarantees we’d raise what we really needed to cover our costs. We decided to invite a staff member from PJ Library’s national office to present at a meeting with the board member’s family, which led to an opportunity to make a request of the family foundation’s board.

When the time came, we made a presentation that emphasized the family foundation’s interests and demonstrated our confidence in the program. As a result of many factors – our relationship with the family, the meeting with the PJ Library staff, and our presentation – we secured a lead gift: a commitment of $500,000 in matching funds to build a PJ Library endowment in Kansas City.

From there, the fun began. First, we asked for Harold’s help in raising the funds to maximize the match and set a course to develop a $1 million endowment for PJ Library. He and Winnie Sandler Grinspoon, the president of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, came to Kansas City for a full day of meetings and inspirational conversations, and we followed up with our donor prospects. Ultimately, that day led to $250,000 in commitments to our growing endowment.

From there our efforts stalled as obvious prospects ran low. However, the promise of matching funds kept our staff inspired, and Harold’s question reminded us to seize the day. We then spoke with a community member who was helping his elderly friend look for philanthropic opportunities. The combination of the power and impact of the PJ Library program and the opportunity for these philanthropic dollars to be matched led to yet another six-figure commitment. This demonstrated the importance of patience, diligence, and never missing an opportunity to talk about what is important for the future of our community.

Our PJ Library endowment fund now resides at our Jewish Community Foundation and will eventually generate distributions that will cover PJ Library subscriptions on an annual basis and contribute toward family programming.

Throughout 2019 and early 2020, we’ve learned that we could – and certainly should – have started building the PJ Library endowment fund earlier. Families love and believe in this program and its impact. When Harold talks about his personal commitment to PJ Library, people are inspired to ensure its future in their own communities.

We’ve also learned that it takes a team: Our CEO, a development professional, and our senior director of community engagement were all involved in these conversations and requests, each participating when necessary. When an organization like ours is aligned in an effort and puts great resources toward it – including the partnership of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation – there is nothing we cannot do.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City is the heart of the Kansas City Jewish community. We build community by bringing people together, strengthening Jewish identity, developing leaders, and inspiring generosity in order to fulfill our mission of sustaining and enhancing Jewish life at home and around the world. Learn more at jewishkansascity.org.

The generosity of the Polsky family inspired others to give and made the PJ Library endowment fund in Kansas City possible. Thank you! Pictured from left: Ellen and Larry Polsky, Renee Polsky Silver and Larry Silver, Harold Grinspoon (Founder, PJ Library) and Winnie Sandler Grinspoon (President, Harold Grinspoon Foundation)

Will PJ Library be there for our kids when they become new parents?

Today, half of the cost of PJ Library is raised through annual donations. We are inspired by local Jewish communities like the one in Kansas City who are planning well into the future and establishing endowments to cover the cost of PJ Library books and resources in perpetuity. Earnings from their endowment fund will ensure that new parents for years to come will be able to sign up for PJ Library.

One gift can truly impact generations to come.

If you are interested in learning if there is an existing endowment in your area or how you might be able to introduce one, please contact Will Schneider, director of advancement: will@hgf.org | 413.276.0716