Meet the Young Advisors Teaming Up With the Trust for Philanthropic Impact

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Playing a critical role in the future of philanthropy, professional advisors are one of The Chicago Community Trust’s most important resources.

Two committees of professional advisors work closely with The Chicago Community Trust to learn more about the community and to better address their clients’ philanthropic goals. The Trust’s Professional Advisory Committee (PAC) and Young Professional Advisory Committee (YPAC) are composed of lawyers, financial advisors, investment managers, accountants, trust officers and other professionals from top companies throughout metropolitan Chicago. The YPAC, established in 2005, includes our advisors under the age of 40.

According to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College, the “great wealth transfer” from baby boomers may be as large as $59 trillion, with the Next Gen receiving as much as $36 trillion. With this in mind, we took the opportunity to sit down with YPAC co-chairs Pamela “Pam” Berkowitz and James Vender, who both joined the YPAC in 2013, for their insights on working with the Trust.

Pam Berkowitz

James Vender

Pam Berkowitz is counsel at the law firm of Perkins Coie, in the firm’s Trust & Estate Planning practice, specializing in estate planning, transfer taxation and trust and estate administration and probate, including the creation of business and estate plans and the management and protection of wealth, while minimizing estate, gift and generation-skipping taxes. James Vender is a private wealth advisor and a founding member of The Vender Group at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, providing clients with thoughtfulness, attention to detail and extraordinary service, which leads to highly-personalized investment advice and counsel.


Q: Tell me about the work that you do. What role does philanthropy play in your work?

Pam Berkowitz: As a trust and estate planning lawyer, many of our clients have a desire to leave a charitable legacy or they want to use charitable planning to offset tax liability. Charitable planning is a potential topic of conversation with every client and advisor, so it is important for me to understand charitable giving vehicles and opportunities.

James Vender: As a private wealth advisor, the bulk of our practice revolves around counseling affluent families on critical life decisions, beyond simple asset allocation: generational planning, asset location and, yes, philanthropic planning. Philanthropy plays a part in our ongoing discussions with virtually all of our clients.

According to the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College, the “great wealth transfer” from baby boomers may be as large as $59 trillion, with the Next Gen receiving as much as $36 trillion.

Q: How did you first learn about The Chicago Community Trust and the Young Professional Advisory Committee?

PB: Since beginning practice as a lawyer, I have always worked with more senior attorneys who are involved with the Trust in some capacity. In particular, I was involved with a client who was transitioning a private foundation to a donor advised fund at the Trust.

JV: An advisor in my office who started on the YPAC, and is now on the PAC, brought the topic up. He knew there was a natural synergy between the types of clients we work with and the type of families who work with the Trust.

Q. What made you decide to join the YPAC—why did you want to get involved?

PB: The Trust was a tremendous resource for one of our clients who was converting his foundation to a donor advised fund, and as a young attorney it was wonderful to see firsthand the services the Trust can offer. I was eager to find a way to stay connected to the Trust and the YPAC provided me that opportunity.

JV: First, the Trust’s reputation is second to none. Being affiliated with a high-caliber organization was a no-brainer to me. I wanted to better understand the mechanics of the organization, and how it could ultimately benefit my clients.

Q. What do you see as the biggest benefits of being part of the YPAC?

PB: The YPAC has had two major benefits for me: deepening my exposure to charitable planning concepts and opportunities, and expanding my professional network. Each YPAC meeting provides an opportunity for participants to learn something new about the Trust and the resources it offers to donors and the community.

In addition, the YPAC is a wonderful group of young professionals from various firms and financial institutions. It has provided me with a strong professional network of peers invested in the Chicago community.

JV: Without hesitation, gaining a greater understanding of the role an organization like the Trust can play in family planning has been the biggest benefit to me.

Q. How has being part of the YPAC assisted you with your job?

PB: I’ve been able to develop a much deeper understanding of the role of charitable planning concepts and opportunities for clients, and better synthesize and effectuate the philanthropic goals of my clients.

JV: That’s still being developed. I never looked at it as an opportunity to benefit me. Although, I bet I’ll look back in 20 years and notice that much of my network has come from the Trust. That type of thing doesn’t happen overnight.

Q. Can you give an example of how you’ve been able to use the Trust as a resource in working with clients?

PB: Primarily assisting clients with determining the most useful tool to meet their philanthropic goal.

JV: I had an unexpected meeting to prepare for in 2016, where philanthropy was a big deal. I knew the Trust was just a quick phone call away from pulling together the resources that I needed.

Q. What are the discussions at YPAC meetings like?

PB: The topic of our most recent meeting was impact investing. We were fortunate to have Debra Schwartz from the MacArthur Foundation explain this buzz phrase and its different meanings and applications. Everyone in attendance walked away from the meeting with a better understanding of impact investing and how to navigate the topic with our colleagues and clients.

JV: Understanding grant making and impact investing were two topics that come to mind. Impact investing was a favorite of mine as it ran through three case studies. Witnessing grants put to action was fascinating. It was refreshing to see money being spent the way it should be spent: in the spirit of making communities better.

Q. Have you recommended friends/colleagues for the YPAC?

PB: Yes! I have suggested the YPAC to many colleagues and contacts and I have been thrilled to see so many of them become members. In addition, my YPAC participation has given me exposure to the Young Leaders Fund at the Trust, which I have also recommended to philanthropically-minded friends looking for a unique way to become more engaged in the Chicago community.

JV: Of course I have. Members of the YPAC are some of the sharpest, most career-driven people in their respective industries. I have emphasized that it is a great way to learn the mechanics of a topic that matters, with the dual purpose of meeting some great people who serve similar clients.

Q. How has being part of the YPAC shaped your own values?

PB: The YPAC has made me feel more connected to philanthropies in the Chicago community. I have had the opportunity to learn about so many of the wonderful initiatives supported by the Trust and its donors. Late last year, we had a joint PAC and YPAC meeting where we I was privileged to lead a panel discussion with the executive directors of Inspiration Corporation and Operation Warm. These are two amazing organizations making a real difference in our community that I had not previously heard about, but now I sing their praises to others.

I also attended a joint PAC and YPAC event at the fieldhouse at Maggie Daley Park where we learned the role that the Trust and so many community organizations played in transforming a previously unremarkable downtown space into a sprawling park for the city’s residents and visitors to enjoy.

Members of the YPAC are some of the sharpest, most career-driven people in their respective industries. It is a great way to learn the mechanics of a topic that matters, with the dual purpose of meeting some great people who serve similar clients.

JV: My membership has given me a confidence I did not necessarily use to have: confidence that donations and grants are being spent appropriately and that charities are being vetted for my clients and others.

Q. What is the time commitment of being in the YPAC?

PB: It is not a heavy commitment at all.

JV: The time commitment is whatever you make of it. It can be an hour a month. I think the requirement should be higher.

Q. You’re now a co-chair—how is that?

PB: I have really enjoyed my tenure as YPAC co-chair. It has given me exposure to the amazing staff at the Trust and it has provided me with an opportunity to become better acquainted with the talented professionals who are members of the YPAC – including my co-chair James, a talented financial advisor.

In addition, the staff at the Trust really listens to the input and programming suggestions we have offered as co-chairs and the feedback of YPAC members, and it is so rewarding to see these ideas turn into successful and beneficial YPAC meetings.

JV: My time as co-chair has exceeded expectations. My co-chair Pam is a fantastic estate planning attorney. I have learned a great deal about her practice and the field in general, while at the same time deepening my relationship with the Trust.


To learn more about the PAC or YPAC, or how you can work more closely with the philanthropic staff at The Chicago Community Trust, please contact Abbe Temkin at 312.616.8000 ext. 133 or by email at