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Spotlight on Women: Marjory Kaplan

President and CEO Jewish Community Foundation San Diego and Miriam and Jerome Katzin Presidential Chair


Marjory Kaplan
Marjory Kaplan

What is your background? I was in the corporate world in banking, both in human resources and investments. When I moved to San Diego from San Francisco, I spent some time in banking with Wells Fargo and also with Scripps Foundation. I joined the Jewish Community Foundation San Diego 20 years ago, and three years ago the chair was endowed by Miriam and Jerome Katzin.

Jewish Community Foundation San Diego is the largest grant maker in San Diego. Why is that? The Jewish community is very generous, although not all members are Jewish. People choose our foundation because we build trust through good service, and we manage their donor-advised funds well. In 2012 we gave away $98 million. Since its inception in 1967, the foundation has given $859 million, and we want to reach our billion-dollar goal within the next couple of years.

What is the advantage of a foundation? It is a convenient way and a community-minded way to give. There are some tax benefits. It is more focused giving and more strategic.

How many researchers do you have? Our total staff is 16. They are all very dedicated, hardworking and skilled in what they do. We have longevity with our staff. Sometimes I have to remind them when it is time to go home.

What drives you? This is such a great position for a person with my background to be able to serve the community. Corporate human resources and investments—one is knowing about people and management, and the other is knowing about the financial world.

What is your life away from work? Work is very life-giving, but everyone needs to get away. I go back to San Francisco. I love to read, so I frequent my favorite bookstores in San Francisco. I enjoy hiking. I have great friends and a wonderful husband. This is such a joyful position. I have been teaching Positive Board Cultures at the USD Governance Symposium for the past three years.

How do you mentor? There are a lot of ways to mentor. Look around your world. It is just being the person you are. It’s a generosity of spirit that we all need to show each other. We need to share the glory and give credit to others. I am interested in mentoring on the management side. We need more positive managers who will really encourage and develop people.

How do you support the community? I work with many organizations including the Grantmakers, Association of Fundraising Professionals, University of San Diego, and others.

What is your advice to others? The most important thing is to take care of yourself. Figure out what you need to do and then do it. You can be really good at what you do, but you have to show kindness and gratitude to make it work. People can excel through discipline, competence and gratitude.

Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of? Building an organization that has so much trust in the community and one that passes on to generations of families. One of my most gratifying roles is helping people plan their charitable legacies. It often feels like a sacred moment to be the one carrying out their wishes after a lifetime of involvement.

What would you be doing if you were not with the foundation? I would continue working in the community, teaching, mentoring. Our city is large enough to be interesting and small enough to be friendly.

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