"In the beginning" around 1974, John Thompson, Director of Alumni Relations at The Principia, approached Burton Sawyer, Director of Development at St. Louis Children's Hospital, about organizing a planned giving group in St. Louis. Their interest in planned giving was sparked by having attended a recent Conrad Teitell seminar. The two gathered a small group and held their first meeting in a classroom at the Upper School on The Principia's campus in west St. Louis County. Follow-up meetings took place at a local Denny's. The spirit of these early meetings was captured by Burton Sawyer who felt, "We need a sounding board with whom to share our challenges and opportunities and to receive informal feedback from competent professionals."
After John moved in 1975 to Washington University as Director of Planned Giving, meetings were held in the Schaefer Boardroom at the School of Medicine. Original attendees (besides Thompson and Sawyer) are believed to have included Lou Basso from St. Mary's Hospital, Fr. Barry McGannon of Saint Louis University, attorney Larry Katzenstein, Ray Markham of the Missouri Jesuit Province, Ray Heckendorn of the National Benevolent Association, Bob Shafis from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Jerry Sackberger with Northwestern Mutual Life and Harold Melser from the Deaconess Hospital Foundation. Before the end of the decade, the group had held its first educational seminar at The Ethical Society.
By the early 1980s, the informal group had expanded to include Doug McDaniel and Jeff Randall of The Salvation Army, Mark Roock and Michael Touhey from Washington University, Tina Short of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Dan Sullivan from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Russ Viehmann of Saint Louis University. They began hosting an annual half-day planned giving seminar each fall, inviting representatives of all charitable organizations in the region. Seminar sites included an auditorium at the Washington University School of Medicine and the Washington University Steinberg Art Gallery.
By the mid-1980s, the Council had become more formally organized. Operating principles were established and dues of $25 per member were charged. Luncheon meetings were held in Wartburg Dining Hall at Concordia Seminary. John Thompson attended the first National Conference on Planned Giving in 1987, hosted by the newly-established National Committee on Planned Giving (NCPG).
The decade of the 90s saw gradual growth, with Saint Louis Planned Giving Council membership increasing steadily to over 100. Besides its luncheon programs, the Council began hosting satellite conferences, made available through NCPG, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The Council initiated Leave a Legacy St. Louis® in 1996 to raise awareness of charitable bequest giving within the larger St. Louis community. The Council has dedicated a portion of its membership dues to Leave a Legacy St. Louis ® to build a media presence through the 2000s.
Starting out the next decade, the Board, with Council membership now approaching 150, increased its focus on Leave a Legacy®. The first partnership occurred in 2001 with the publication of a Senior Circuit issue fully dedicated to planned giving. Also in 2001, the Council luncheon programs moved to an expanded facility at Ces & Judy's Catering in Frontenac. With the growing demand for increased activities, the Board of Directors expanded to fifteen members and developed a formal committee structure to carry out Council activities. Many well-respected local professionals have taken part in Council leadership. Past presidents include: Lou Basso, Bob Shafis, Dan Jones, Michael Weisbrod, Ken Nickless, Mark Roock, Judi Schraer, and Dianne Johnson.
Since 2001, at a community-wide level, the Council has developed new partnerships to build awareness of planned giving. Along with Metropolitan Association for Philanthropy (now known as Gateway Center for Giving), the Council participated in the release of two seminal reports on giving and wealth in the St. Louis region – "The Golden Age of Philanthropy" and "Private Dollars for Public Good." These studies were conducted by the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College and the Indiana University Center for Philanthropy at Indianapolis. Both studies helped to establish a better understanding of the current state of St. Louis philanthropy, what the coming wealth transfer will look like in the St. Louis region and the opportunities for philanthropic growth in the region.
In conjunction with these regional efforts, in 2003 Leave a Legacy St. Louis® developed a partners program to expand corporate awareness of the Council and planned giving, as it continued to produce the annual Senior Circuit (now known as Prime Life) publication. LAL also helped bring several nationally recognized speakers to St. Louis, including Paul G. Schervish, director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College (author of the "Golden Age" study), and Claire Gaudiani, author of The Greater Good.
In 2006, Leave a Legacy St. Louis® in partnership with Gateway Center for Giving successfully launched "Will to Give," a regional effort to increase charitable bequest giving through nonprofit presentations educating attendees on the value of leaving a bequest to their favorite charities. In Will to Give's first year, 150 nonprofit organizations took part in training and, in turn, delivered presentations to over 8,000 individuals about the importance of "leaving a legacy."
As both the Council's activities and its Leave a Legacy® efforts expanded, the Board developed its first ever five-year strategic plan to focus on and address the opportunities and challenges going forward. Council membership currently exceeds 170, with a target of exceeding 200 in the coming few years. A planned all-day conference in 2009 and the launch of the community-wide "Legacy Awards" in June 2008 continue to increase the vitality and significance of the Saint Louis Planned Giving Council, both to its members and to the greater St. Louis community.
Past presidents have included: Lou Basso, Bob Shafis, Dan Jones, Michael Weisbrod, Ken Nickless, Mark Roock, Judi Schraer, Dianne Johnson, Tim Prosser, Mark Winer, Judi Smith, Dan Shasserre, Donna Frederick, Trudy Lee, Kent LeVan, and Steven Skodak. There are currently 110 members in the Saint Louis Planned Giving Council.