Pentera Founder André R. Donikian, JD, recently received the highest honor of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners (CGP) by being named to its new Hall of Fame. André and others selected for the honor will be inducted at the opening dinner of the CGP National Conference Oct. 17 in Las Vegas.
The Hall of Fame letter from CGP to André telling him about receiving the award reads in part:
On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff, congratulations on your induction into the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is CGP's highest honor, reserved for those whose life's work has impacted charitable gift planning in profound and meaningful ways. All of us at CGP are extremely proud to recognize you with this well-deserved honor.
André helped pioneer the planned giving industry
"If you were selecting the top half dozen or so who gave birth to planned giving as we know it, André would be among that group - both how to market planned gifts and how to apply planned gifts to solve donor situations," says fellow Hall of Fame inductee Frank Minton, who began working with André in the late 1970s and has been a presenter for decades alongside André at Pentera's planned giving seminars that are considered the best in the profession. "André was one of the people at the very beginning and helped found our national organization (CGP) too. He is among those considered to be a leader from the very beginning."
André helped pioneer the planned giving profession in the 1960s, well before any national organization existed. As a law student working part-time under the guidance of his mentor, Richard W. Coughlin, they began creating planned giving training materials and conducting training sessions for professionals in the field. As a young attorney, André was among the first to realize the implications of the Tax Reform Act of 1969 - and continued developing gift-planning materials and training programs that became the template and benchmark for promoting and educating about planned giving nationwide.
One of André's most significant professional achievements was founding Pentera, Inc. - a company known for its high-quality and innovative marketing resources - which he started in 1975 and entrusted to his daughter, Claudine A. Donikian, JD, MBA, in the mid-2000s to run and to bring into the digital age. The gifts stimulated by the marketing ideas in Pentera's materials would no doubt total in the billions of dollars.
André played crucial role in founding CGP (planned giving's national professional association)
André's early influence on the profession and the founding of CGP is described by Ron Brown, who is planned giving's leading historian in addition to having led programs at several universities.
"There is no question that André is one of a handful of people responsible for the existence of our national professional organization," Ron says. "What I would point to is the pilot training program that the Lilly Endowment launched for colleges in Indiana (in 1978). André took the lead to train those schools. The program was so successful in the eyes of Charles Johnson (then the Lilly Endowment vice president for development) that he decided to launch the national organization (originally named the National Council on Planned Giving, NCPG) - and fund the first five years of it. The relationship between André and Charles was crucial for our field, and André deserves a lot of credit for the national association's founding."
In the early 1980s André led two round table conferences that brought together many planned giving professionals who knew one another by reputation but had never met. They began talking about a national organization, and André was a founding member of the committee that created NCPG, now CGP. He later served on the board.
André continued to be the leading interpreter of tax law changes
In 1986 André gave the keynote presentation on tax reform at the first governance meeting of the fledgling organization, and in 1988 an office was opened in Indianapolis and the first national conference open to the public was held. André led a packed session explaining the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and the generation-skipping transfer tax.
In a presentation at the national conference in 1992, André was the first ever to introduce and discuss the tax cost of passing retirement funds to heirs and the advantages of making charitable gifts with them. He also called attention to the advantages of contributing distributions of company stock from retirement funds.
One of the Most Innovative and Entertaining Presenters on Planned Giving
Don Kent, who now does financial planning with high-net-worth families for Bernstein Private Wealth Management and was on the board of CGP with André while directing the planned giving program for the Jewish Federations of North America, lauds André for his teaching ability and presentation style.
"At conferences I would attend any and all of his sessions that I could, and I was never quiet in his sessions - and he actually liked it," says Don. "He likes being challenged, and that means he really knows what he is talking about. He is very good at telling stories that make planned giving come to life. It's clear that he is describing real-life situations, and that makes these technical and dry topics interesting.
"There are many experts in the field and many attorney-experts in the field, but André is one of the most innovative and thoughtful - and one of the most entertaining. It's a rarity to have such substance with the kind of humility he exhibits."
André is also highly respected in the planned giving industry for mentoring other planned giving professionals.
"He always has time to mentor a younger member, and he gets excited when he gets a chance to mentor," says Alexandra P. Brovey, senior director of gift planning at the Northwell Health Foundation.
Jon Heintzelman, the former vice president of development at both Northwestern University and Loyola University Chicago, described André as "one of the most effective presenters on planned giving in the country."
"André Donikian is clearly one of the early and all-time important leaders in the field," Jon said.
The Hall of Fame honor for André shows that the planned giving profession surely agrees.