Fundholder Spotlight: Bill & Trish Steere
Fun Fact: This philanthropic couple met at – where else? – a fundraiser. The Akron Art Museum Wine Auction.
The Steere family has long been known for its philanthropy in the Greater Akron area. Bill Steere's father, Frank W. Steere Jr., was one of the early recipients of the Bert A. Polsky Humanitarian Award in 1981, and both his parents and grandparents cared deeply about giving back to the community.
So, when Bill and Trish Steere began thinking about a plan for their philanthropy, involving Bill's children was key. While Trish's three children from her first marriage all live out of state, Bill's sons, Brock and Brian, were born and raised in Akron. They now help to run Steere Enterprises, a third-generation family business.
In 2014, Bill and Trish established a donor-advised fund at Akron Community Foundation, the Steere Family Fund. A few years later, Bill joined the foundation's board. He and Trish traveled with foundation staff to the National Center for Family Philanthropy conference soon after and helped champion the creation of The Center for Family Philanthropy at Akron Community Foundation.
How did you get your children involved in philanthropy?
Bill: That was the way they grew up. You sort of pass it from generation to generation. Their grandparents were very involved in the community, and they saw Mignon (his wife who died in 2010) and I be involved, too.
Trish: It's good to get them involved sooner in life, rather than waiting until their kids are raised. Younger people always think, "Oh, we don't really have the money to do that right now because we have all these other expenses." But bringing them in through The Center for Family Philanthropy let them see how they could afford to start giving, no matter what the amount was. That's why the foundation allowing people to establish a donor-advised fund with a lesser amount of money to get started is good. It's saying that giving back isn't just for the wealthy. When you're raising a family, you can get so focused on saving every penny for your family, but there's always someone you can help.
Are you also thinking about involving your grandchildren in your fund?
Bill: We've been talking to Karen Hrdlicka (director of The Center for Family Philanthropy), and I was surprised when she said that some families are bringing in young children. So, I think that's going to be our plan next year. Karen put together a great program to help our family determine our interests. It was a nice family bonding process that actually worked even better than I thought it would.
How did having a family meeting at The Center for Family Philanthropy help your family streamline your giving?
Trish: We got so much more out of those meetings than just determining who we were going to donate to. We learned a lot about each other and what our goals were, especially with how to best use the business to give back. It helped us narrow in on all our interests. I think it was great – not only for deciding what organizations we wanted to support, but also for supporting each other and our beliefs.
Bill: Because of that process, we realized we needed to have two donor-advised funds. Trish and I were using the original fund for our giving, and then we were using it to support organizations that the company wanted to support. Rather than having it all come out of the same fund, we created the Bill and Trish Steere Fund, which we're using just for what she and I really want to support. And then we created the new Steere Family Fund, which is the one that our entire family has a say in.
What made you choose Akron Community Foundation for your donor-advised fund?
Bill: I didn't want someone who couldn't care less about where my money is going and why I'm giving the money. It's just a financial transaction for them.
Trish: Akron Community Foundation does so much of the work. Like I said, Karen was able to help us make our choices and introduce us to organizations we would not have heard of otherwise.
Bill: You're not going to get that from a private foundation or a commercial company. If I say, "Hey, what are some organizations working in health and human services that I may be interested in?" they'll say, "Google it." One thing that also really resonated with me was the ability to donate a chunk of money and get the tax deduction in that year without being obligated to give all that money away at one time. You can parcel it out to a number of different organizations. And the foundation makes it really easy. We just call and say, "I'd like to give $10,000 to this organization," and it gets processed.
To learn more about establishing your own charitable fund or utilizing the services of The Center for Family Philanthropy, visit akroncf.org/CFP.