When Barry Tucker thinks about his childhood spent roaming backstage at the Metropolitan Opera, he fondly recalls the performers’ elaborate costumes. Made up of mile-high hairpieces and ornate combinations, they were worn by some of the most famous names in opera.
Among them was his father, Richard Tucker — a former silk salesman and cantor who became one of the greatest tenors in the world.
“He sang for every president from Truman on,” said Tucker, 78, an executive financial adviser at JPMorgan Chase, who lives in Manhattan. “He worked all the time. And he did a lot for charity.”
In January 1975, Richard Tucker died of a heart attack while on tour in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was 60.
His funeral was held onstage at the Met — the only time that has ever occurred at Lincoln Center, the Met said. His family, though, was unsure how best to preserve his memory.
“A general manager from the Met said, ‘You’ve got to do something to help other American opera singers,’” Tucker said.
Spurred by that suggestion, he and his family started a foundation in his father’s honor, the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. Just weeks later, on Feb. 6, 1975, a concert was held at Carnegie Hall, with proceeds going to the Metropolitan Opera Fund.
While some people erect plaques, statues or buildings to remember a loved one who has died, others start foundations, scholarships or memorial funds.
While there is no minimum financial requirement to start a foundation, the process can be laborious. There are many costs and responsibilities associated with doing so. A board must be set up, regular filings are required and meetings must be held and minutes kept.
“It takes a great deal of time, effort, and thought to work through all the areas of law, finance and management that need to be considered,” said Elizabeth Krempley, a spokeswoman for the Council on Foundations, a nonprofit organization that provides advice on setting up charities.
There are other options that can make the process more cost-effective and easier to manage.
— Collecting for Charity Online
Some families raise money on internet crowdfunding platforms such as Deposit a Gift, CrowdRise or GoFundMe, which deduct a small fee from each campaign.
A day after Alice Flaherty retired in November 2012 from her nursing job at what was then Lakewood Hospital, in Ohio, she was told she had lung cancer. She died a little over a year later, at age 63.
“My wife made a request to our son and daughter: ‘Make sure the kids, the grandkids don’t forget about me,’” said her husband, Dan Flaherty, 68, a retired teacher.
In September 2014, he and his family enlisted local and corporate sponsors and established the Love a Nurse Run to honor Alice Flaherty, an avid runner. The inaugural event, a 5-kilometer run and a 1-mile walk, attracted nearly 800 participants.
Her family created the Alice Flaherty Excellence in Nursing Scholarship Fund with the help of an accountant but went to YouCaring to solicit donations. The site charges a 3 percent credit card processing fee and asks for a separate voluntary amount from donors after they contribute to a campaign.
The fund has awarded 84 scholarships worth more than $76,000, and the third annual Love a Nurse Run is scheduled for Sunday.
— Outsourcing the Management
Others want to collect money in memory of a loved one, but they eschew the management of the funds.
Scholarship America, a nonprofit group based in Minneapolis, will design and manage scholarship programs and memorial funds. Fees for managing the scholarships start at a couple of thousand dollars, depending on the level of complexity and customization of each program, said Mimi Daly Larson, the group’s senior vice president.
Another possibility is CharitySmith National Society of Memorial Funds. It charges a $700 startup fee the first year, and a $516 annual maintenance fee. If the fund raises more than $12,000, there is a one-time fee of 4.3 percent of the amount raised.
Through CharitySmith, Veronica Wennekamp, a business analyst in Memphis, Tennessee, started the Hallelujah Helen Memorial Fund, which provides summer camp scholarships to children ages 5 to 12 in the United States, in memory of her mother-in-law, Helen Wennekamp.
Meghan Fink and her three siblings did something similar, founding the Stephen E. Fink Memorial Fund in honor of their father, who died of amyloidosis in January 2010.
In addition to participating in blood drives and a bone marrow registry, they hold an event called the Thanksgiving Share a Meal, open to anyone in the Pasadena, California, area, at the restaurant their father started 21 years ago.
“To give back when you’ve lost so much is really the only way forward,” said Ashley Galleher, 28, the executive director of CharitySmith, which oversees more than 120 active funds. “The grieving process is way more of a burden to bear when you’re not giving back to other people.”
Then there are those, like Katie Nicholson, who eventually feel confident enough to fly solo. Nicholson, 31, started the Zio Nick Memorial Fund on CharitySmith in memory of her father, Michael, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in October 2014. She is now obtaining her own nonprofit status, to ensure her organization is not subject to federal taxes. “Creating a nonprofit gives me the ability to fully align and set my own mission,” she said.
— Outsourcing the Paperwork
Those who want to manage and collect money on their own can opt for a donor-advised fund, a charitable giving vehicle in which organizations such as The Jewish Communal Fund or The New York Community Trust will file paperwork, direct the money to a chosen charity and simplify the process, for a fee.
“You can take a tax deduction right away,” said David Samuels, a New York lawyer who specializes in setting up and advising charitable organizations. “Then you can make requests to that charity as to where the money should go.”
— Keeping It Going
In the years since its founding, Tucker’s foundation, which awards financial prizes to rising American opera stars, has raised millions of dollars, and its annual concert is scheduled for Oct. 30 at Carnegie Hall. It will feature artists including Anna Netrebko and Renée Fleming.
“You try to honor people when they’re alive, but sometimes it’s too late,” Tucker said. “But 41 years after my father died, I’ll sell out Carnegie Hall. These people never saw or heard my father live, but still, they’ll sing for us in his honor.”
His big worry is succession — he has no idea who will take over the foundation after he dies.
His brothers, children and grandchildren are all music lovers, but he has been the one most involved in the organization.
“I have the relationship with all the singers,” he said. “No singer in the world has ever said no to me, and they all sing for free.”