Breaking: Robert F. Sharpe, Jr., Dies Unexpectedly
Robert F. Sharpe, Jr., Dies Unexpectedly

Robert F. Sharpe, Jr., a member of the legendary family of planned giving experts, died Thursday at his home in Memphis, Tenn. He was 68.

He is credited with being the first to advocate changing the term “planned giving” to “gift planning,” pushing forward the who and why, of the process.

Sharpe was found unresponsive in his bed the morning after dealing with issues related to the ice storm that impacted much of the middle section of the United States, said Barlow Mann, general counsel of The Sharpe Group and a near life-long friend of Sharpe.

Sharpe is survived by his wife and five daughters. A private memorial service will be held Thursday, February 10. The family requests that in lieu of flowers memorial gifts be made to the charitable organization of the donor’s choice.

Sharpe left the firm approximately three years ago and launched Encore, a philanthropic management consulting firm. Consultants within The Sharpe Group explained there had been a disagreement among the shareholders and Sharpe decided to leave the firm, which was launched by his father, the likewise legendary Robert F. Sharpe, Sr., in 1963.

“The lasting impact he’ll have on the field of gift planning — he taught thousands and worked with hundreds of clients — we are not talking years. We are talking decades,” said Mann.

“Robert F Sharpe, Jr., was a giant in the philanthropic sector. He helped countless professionals and their organizations realize potential through planned and major gifts,” said Eugene R. Tempel, Ph.D., dean emeritus, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in Indianapolis, Ind.

“The thing with Robert was beside the fact he was brilliant, he was always looking at the big picture, always future trends,” said Michael Kenyon, president and CEO of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners in Indianapolis, Ind. “Everyone wanted to know what Robert Sharpe was thinking.”

According to his biography on the Encore website, Sharpe consulted with educational, health, social service, arts and religious organizations and institutions in the planning and implementation of their major, planned gift and endowment development efforts. He mentored many of the nation’s leading nonprofit executives whose efforts have raised tens of billions of dollars.

He graduated Vanderbilt University and Cornell Law School with honors before working as a development officer and then in the tax and estate planning area of a law firm. He is credited with having coined the term “blended gifts,” during a talk in 1995 at the national conference of the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners.

He was chair of the philanthropy editorial board of Trusts & Estates magazine and co-author of the CGP Model Standards of Gift Valuation He was also an advisory council member for the Alliance for Charitable Reform in its efforts to preserve and expand favorable tax treatment for charitable gifts.

Sharpe was a recipient of the CASE Crystal Apple award for excellence in teaching and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York, the David M. Donaldson Distinguished Service award from the Planned Giving Group of New England and was inducted to the CGA Gift Planning Hall of Fame.

The death was shocking to many in the gift planning community. “Robert junior’s brilliant mathematical mind, his integration of AI (artificial intelligence) and other tools, will be the foundation for the next 60 years of leaders, said Eric Eilertsen, president of The Sharpe Group.

“We relied on Robert for the big picture. He prompted us to look beyond immediate issues and to see the broad trends on charitable giving to which we must respond,” said Frank Minton, principal at Frank Minton Consulting in Seattle, Wash., and planned giving expert. “His vision and animated speaking style assured a full room when he spoke, and his counsel was greatly valued. He was a giant in the profession and will surely be missed.”

Mann said that once his friend latched onto a project, “he’d go 24 or 36 hours on it.” That’s not a surprise to people who knew him well. Kenyon said he was recently working on a business model with Sharpe. Said Kenyon: “He was a 90-miles-an-hour guy all the time.”