Meet the Richman Family

Promoting a culture of giving through a supporting foundation

Arnie and Alison Richman learned the importance of philanthropy at an early age, watching their parents and grandparents cultivate a culture of giving. Growing up in modest middle class surroundings, each was taught that it wasn’t the amount one gave but the fact that one gave – that even a gift of $10 a year could make a difference.

In 1969, these former high school sweethearts married. Arnie became a partner in a company which owned and managed nursing homes. Today, he is a partner in a senior living business. Alison is an adoption social worker at Jewish Community Services. The two continue to pursue charitable endeavors.

Eighteen years ago, Arnie and Alison established The Richman Family Foundation at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. The couple talks about their philanthropy and why they waited until their daughters were young adults to engage them in grant-making.

Alison Richman: Growing up, we were always taught the importance of giving back. It was in the DNA of our grandparents and parents to give to others in need, albeit in the modest amounts they could afford. Giving back was not about the size of the check.

We started our foundation because we wanted to have a formal way to give back to the community. We split our giving between causes in the Jewish and general communities.

Arnie Richman: We decided to wait until our three daughters were grown before they became involved in the foundation, because we wanted them to become involved when they were in a better position to make judgments about the needs of the Jewish and general communities.

Alison: When they became involved at ages 30, 27, and 20 and under the expert guidance of Nancy Kutler from The Associated's Center for Funds & Foundations, Arnie and I decided to carve out a piece of what we gave each year and have the children decide which programs they would like to continue to support and to recommend some new grants.

Arnie: We provided our daughters with a two-page summary of our philosophy about everything from philanthropy to family harmony and the foundation’s guidelines for giving. The whole idea of giving them a certain amount to allocate is about learning to make choices – what to support and in what order of magnitude. They have struggled with these issues, as we all do.

With our daughters’ input we’ve facilitated grants to the American Jewish World Service, an organization that works for human rights and to end poverty in the developing world. We also funded programs that focus on Jewish teens in Baltimore with substance abuse issues.

Alison: Over the past 10 years that our children have been actively involved in the foundation, it is quite obvious to Arnie and me that giving our children this type of responsibility helped them mature into more socially conscious adults and has influenced the way they think about life in general.

Arnie: The whole process has been gratifying – especially seeing my daughters working together to come to an agreement about where and what to give. And bringing the next generation together to maintain a family’s philanthropic tradition is clearly one of a supporting foundation’s greatest dividends.

Originally published in fall 2012. 

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