The Beach Jumper’s Philanthropy Distribution System

The American College of Financial Services
July 26, 2021

When Phil Cubeta, MSFS, CLU®, ChFC®, CAP®, Assistant Professor of Philanthropy and Wallace Chair at The American College of Financial Services, joined The College in 2009, the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®) program had graduated 350 students in around eight years. Today, annual enrollments in the program have tripled, and more than 2,400 students have now earned their CAP® designations. How did this program originate, and what made it grow so much, so fast? The answer goes back to Korea, circa 1950.

 

The Beach Jumper’s Mission

 

Cubeta was chosen to head the CAP® program by its funders, Bill and Sallie Wallace. A first-generation college student, Bill attended Columbia University on a football scholarship and became an All-American player. Wallace’s altruism and courage led him to become a “Beach Jumper” during the Korean War. Organized during World War II by Naval officer and Hollywood star Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., the Beach Jumpers were U.S. Navy Special Forces officers who performed among the most dangerous jobs in the war. If you’ve not heard of the Beach Jumpers, that’s no surprise, for their missions were considered even more classified than those of Navy SEALs—the organization the Beach Jumpers would eventually inspire.

After the war, Wallace chose a new challenge that drew, in a different way, on his tenacity and concern for others’ well-being: he became an insurance agent. His gifts and strength of character led to his rise through the profession to become the head of Home Life, and to his winning every award the insurance world has to offer. A pioneer in what we’d now call “values-based planning,” Wallace became one of the most admired and revered professionals in the industry.

Wallace also became a leader in the philanthropic world. He knew that financial advisors touch expanding circles of many, many lives, influencing people at inflection points at which they make their most important decisions about life, loved ones, and legacy. If advisors were more open to discussing philanthropy with their clients, he reasoned, they could do enormous good. Wallace also recognized a systemic problem in the philanthropic world: that the nonprofits who sought Bill and Sallie’s help understood their hearts, but knew nothing about their money. Meanwhile, financial advisors knew everything about their money, but were cold as ice when it came to discussing philanthropy. How, Bill wondered, might these two siloed, sometimes even adversarial, worlds be brought together to maximize the good that might be done?

 

The Mission

 

The solution Wallace devised was a sophisticated program that would teach financial advisors and nonprofit gift planners how to work together for a common purpose. They wanted nonprofit professionals to be able to play a key role in a donor’s financial discussions—to be as much a part of an estate-planning team as trust officers are—and financial professionals to be comfortable helping their clients not only accumulate wealth, but also make use of it in a manner the client finds most rewarding. No such program had ever existed. But who better than a Beach Jumper-turned-insurance professional to calibrate risks and develop and execute a winning strategy?

The most important factor in the success of Wallace’s plan was to find a head for the program who shared Wallace’s vision: an expert in finance with a nonprofit sensibility. He found that leader in Phil Cubeta, an insurance executive with strong liberal arts sensibilities and a profound commitment to uniting communities to alleviate human suffering. “CAP® is exactly what they’d planned to do,” Phil observes, “and it’s exactly what I wanted to do.”

Now in their 90s, the Wallaces remain active and in good health and continue to follow the program closely. They respond to the quarterly reports they receive with expressions of their gratitude for a program which has not only realized, but far exceeded, their dreams.

“They have created almost a mini-distribution system for philanthropy, built around financial advisors and fundraisers, and that was their dream,” Cubeta says.

 

Mission Accomplished

 

Early on, Cubeta realized the program would enhance its reach and success by organizing study groups of students taking CAP® courses, but was unsure how best to make this happen. Then, in Dallas in 2010, with leadership from Todd Healy, MSW®, CLU®, ChFC®, AEP®, CAP®, Founder of C3 Financial, Jackie Franey, CAP®, now Director of Gift Planning with The Nature Conservancy, and Jayne Grimes, now Senior Director of Gift Planning at Buckner International, a local study group began to form. Cubeta went to Dallas to address 40 prospective students convened by Healy, Franey, and Grimes at Communities Foundation of Texas. 

At first, the meeting didn’t go well. Despite Cubeta’s eloquent description of the program and how their participation in it would benefit their practices and their clients, the audience of wealth advisors remained polite but unpersuaded. Then, Jayne Grimes took the microphone. “Everything Phil said is true, but that’s not why we’re doing it,” he said. “We are doing this for Dallas. We want Dallas to be the most generous city in America!” The result was electric. Eager to become a part of this effort, every person in the room waited patiently in line to sign up. 

It was then that Cubeta realized the advisors drawn to the CAP® program aren’t persuaded by the prospect of greater wealth accumulation—which is, after all, already their area of expertise. What draws the subset of wealth advisors to CAP® is an altruistic desire to use their skills to help their communities. 

The success of the Dallas group inspired the creation of several dozen other city-based CAP® study groups across the U.S. These groups have significantly enhanced the amount and impact of local giving. Over a five-year period, for example, $1.4 billion of philanthropic efforts can be traced to the 43 advisors in the CAP® Omaha Study Group alone. At any given time, 15-20 study groups are active or in formation. Most are local, some are national, and some are based on groups of affinity.

Recently, George Nichols III, President and CEO of The American College of Financial Services, joined the Philadelphia Study Group. Dien Yuen, JD, LLM, CAP®, AEP®, Assistant Professor of Philanthropy and Blunt-Nickel Professor in Philanthropy at The College, also organized a national study group for Advisors of Color, with 100 slated to complete CAP® over the next year or so. 

 

Mission Forward

 

The College was originally founded as “the insurance college,” whose mission was to professionalize life insurance sales and thereby serve the public, but that mission has now expanded beyond the insurance industry—and indeed, beyond even financial services. The College continues to flourish by helping our students make a very real difference in the lives of those they serve and to the larger communities of which they are a part. The CAP® program is leading the way.  

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One of the keys to philanthropic success is proper financial planning. Through the three-course Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®) designation program, you will learn how to help philanthropies maximize their donations and resources. The CAP® is designed for experienced professionals in both the financial services and nonprofit sector, and gives you the power to do more with your career.

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