Making philanthropy a family tradition

Jennifer Eburg

3 min read

Randy Siller ’79 (BUS) and his three daughters, Meredith, Stefanie, and Isabella, have an annual tradition. They gather once a year for a family meeting to discuss their philanthropic goals for that year.

“Many years ago, I established a donor advised fund for my daughters to make charitable gifts from,” says Siller, managing partner of the family wealth advisory firm Siller & Cohen Associates. “We typically support between one and three charities each year.”

At the meeting, Siller and his daughters discuss how much can be spent in the upcoming year, with each daughter granted one third of that value. Then it comes time to decide exactly how the money will be allocated—a decision that must be unanimous.

“Everyone comes to the meeting prepared to discuss what charities they would like to support and why. If they don’t unanimously agree, the charity doesn’t get funded,” Siller says. “My oldest daughter is the one who makes the actual request of the donor advised fund.”

For Siller, this family tradition has been a way for him to pay it forward beyond his own philanthropy by helping his daughters gain an appreciation for the importance of giving and the options for doing so. The concept of paying it forward is something Siller carries with him from his own parents. His father, Bernard Siller ’50 (CLAS), taught inner city kids in Stamford who were below reading level, and his mother, Barbara Siller, was a payroll supervisor.

“My parents were a big influence. Both instilled in me a work ethic and the importance of education and caring for other people,” Siller says. “They taught me about lifting others up.”

Siller says his mother was incredibly bright and hardworking, but held back from reaching her full potential because she was unable to go to college for financial reasons. This, combined with what he learned about helping those in need, sparked a desire in Siller to make a difference for others.

Siller has a long history of supporting UConn, including a scholarship bearing his father’s name that supports students enrolled in the Neag School’s integrated bachelor’s and master’s program. Most recently, Siller established the Siller Family Leadership Scholarship, which supports School of Business students who demonstrate leadership, such as serving as a peer mentor in UConn’s Financial Literacy Innovation Program.

Supporting UConn’s business students was a natural move for Siller, a proud School of Business alumnus.

“This scholarship is very personal to me. The School of Business provided me with the tools and the access to obtain a job with a big eight accounting firm, and really helped me to jump start my career,” he explains. “I’m a big believer that everybody should be given a chance.”

It was also a natural move for Siller to involve his daughters in the process and he incorporated their input while developing the scholarship language. When he is no longer able to monitor the scholarship, his daughters will take over.

“I am very proud of my daughters and their desire to help others,” Siller says. “They will be great stewards of this scholarship.”

Siller hopes that the recipients of this scholarship will also seek to pay it forward, continuing the ripple effect that started with his parents.

“Mom could have been so much more if she had the education, but she never had the opportunity. Part of why I give back is to help make sure others in a similar situation do have the opportunity to further their education,” he says. “The scholarship is about more than just the people who receive it. I want to give others a chance to prove themselves, become good citizens, and go on to give back themselves and help others.”

Siller encourages everyone to explore donor advised funds and says that they are a great way to use tax benefits to help make a difference.

“Donor advised funds are terrific vehicles for families who don’t want to go through the complexity to set up a private foundation, or who don’t have the resources to set up something that large,” he explains. “I encourage anyone who is interested to reach out to their financial advisor to help them understand this option.”

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