Jim and Joan Van Vleck: Keeping their family’s philanthropy alive

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Since moving to Jacksonville from Dayton, OH, in 1996, Jim and Joan Van Vleck have immersed themselves in community and charitable causes.  They have many interests, but the arts and education are the primary beneficiaries of their leadership and their generosity.  A past Trustee of The Community Foundation, Jim led The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens and Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra boards, and is on the University of North Florida Foundation Board. He has established several scholarships at UNF. Joan is a founding member and a past president of the Women’s Giving Alliance, an initiative of The Community Foundation. She has funded two endowments that benefit the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center–one to support research and the other to support fellowships. A master gardener, Joan has been very involved with Bird Island Park and Memorial Park in Riverside.

They are serious, passionate philanthropists, eager to roll up their sleeves for nonprofits they support.  Both are educators at heart, and have applied the discipline of learning, testing, and validating results to their philanthropy.  Jim’s a big advocate of ‘going deep’ with an organization.

“By going deep, you’re going to learn whether it’s the right place for you,” Jim explains. “You have to be connected enough to see the impact. I want to know that I can trust the leadership.”

Going deep also provides confidence to invest in what might be the less visible opportunities, like professional development for staff.

“I’d much rather invest in human capital than invest in buildings,” Jim notes.

They also place a high value on an organization’s intangibles, noting “kindness, gratitude, humility – these mean a lot to us.”

“It’s the joy of being engaged in something bigger than yourself,” says Jim. “It’s so satisfying to see things change and grow because you helped support an organization you believed in.”

Jim & Joan have emphasized the importance of philanthropy to their daughters and their families for years. They’ve established funds for their daughters, and their grandchildren, and regularly discuss with family the pleasure they get from ‘engaged giving.’

Joan notes that their daughters are learning from them, and articulate their philanthropic philosophy to their children in turn. Jim and Joan’s philanthropic instincts are now being transmitted to a third and fourth generation—a priceless legacy indeed.

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