The Pittsburgh Foundation

James Beck Hefren Tillotson

In 2002, James Beck, a Certified Financial Planner with Hefren Tillotson, and his four siblings founded a private family foundation in honor of their parents John and Frances Beck and their brother Bobby, who in 1951 died of Leukemia on Christmas Day at the age of four. After a decade of running the foundation, however, the Becks decided they needed professional help. “Between the excise tax, the preparation and the day-to-day management, we found we weren’t having the time to give it the due diligence it needed,” said Beck. “And the IRS has no sense of humor.”

Mr. Beck looked into national firms, but when the research was finished, the family chose The Pittsburgh Foundation. They decided to set up a donor advised fund, which now is advised by Mr. Beck, his wife Lynn and Mr. Beck’s four siblings and their spouses. 

“The transition has been seamless,” Mr. Beck said. “And overall, our experience with the fund has been nothing short of wonderful – you have no idea.” 

“Our support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society obviously stems from the loss of our brother. We have given LLS at least $50,000 per year (sometimes more) to fund research for finding cures for blood cancers. It’s been our passion as a family to help others avoid the pain leukemia caused our family.” 

The family typically keeps a low profile with the fund and has donated to a number of other charitable organizations “from Shreveport to South Dakota.” Most of the groups it helps come to them by word-of-mouth. “One of the great ones so far was a local church camp – the Petroleum Valley Youth Center,” Mr. Beck said. “It’s actually on some property that our family business had owned. A local coal miner had come to my Dad, and Dad said, ‘Go ahead and mine it, but when you’re finished, build a couple pavilions.’” 

That’s how the church-affiliated camp for 20-30 youngsters got started, and when some federal funding was cut, the Beck family stepped in to support the Butler County camp operations. 

So far, the family has given away more than $1 million, and the fund currently has assets of about $3.5 million. Typically each year, the five Beck families each get $10,000 to donate to charities they’d like to help, and then the five branches discuss other activities they’d like to support together. 

“It does allow you the opportunity to make a difference,” Mr. Beck said. “Is $2,000 a significant amount of money? For some organizations, it makes the difference as to whether they open their doors or not. You don’t think that’s the case, but it is.” 

Mr. Beck and his wife Lynn also have set up their own fund to help worthy organizations. “It’s just been a wonderful experience – it truly has. The Foundation’s attention to detail and responsiveness – I really can’t say enough about how we’ve been treated. I’ve encouraged I don’t know how many clients to use the Foundation. Just to have it here and local means a lot.”