Del Mar philanthropist strives to make the rewards of giving also creative and innovative


Jim BenedictJim Benedict, a Del Mar resident and an active volunteer, created Innovative Giving ( to help individuals better enjoy their philanthropic giving.Benedict spent his career in marketing and advertising and wanted to combine that experience by bringing creativity to giving. “Not just by writing a check, but creating greater meaning to the gifting,” he said. “Giving is very rewarding in itself, and by implementing some extra steps in creative giving, it can be even more gratifying.”Benedict spent over 20 years on the Ecke Family YMCA, and has served on numerous other community boards over his career.Benedict is currently on the City of Del Mar finance committee, and he is a board member of the R.C. Baker Foundation and UCSD Triton’s Athletic Board of Advisors.Honors Benedict has received include the Red Triangle Award and Humanitarian of the Year award, and he was honored by the San Diego County Metro YMCA with the Golden Triangle award – the highest award for service in the county.Married for 24 years to Tina, he has two children: Kelly, a graduate of Chapman University and Eric, a graduate of NYU. Both attended Santa Fe Christian High School in Solana Beach.What brought you to Del Mar?Fresh out of college, I moved back from Seattle to open a wine and cheese store in Del Mar called the Cork & Cheddar. I ran it for two years and I got to know everyone in town (who drank wine!)Why be creative in giving instead of just writing a check?For many reasons. The gift may be more impactful and memorable. The charity may get increased publicity which they always need. The personal satisfaction can and will significantly increase. Conceivably involving other organizations may also increase the gifting value as an added benefit.Can you give an example?The Community Resource Center, in Encinitas, presents their Holiday Baskets event every December at the fairgrounds where they serve over 1,600 less fortunate North County families. They give out about 300 bikes to very happy recipients, but have over 1,300 requests each year. I approached a foundation and asked them to fund an additional 100 bikes as a donation to the CRC. They teamed up with a local bike shop to help. This became a win – win – win for CRC, the foundation, and the bike shop. CRC will get their additional bikes and a great deal of much needed publicity; the foundation will be proud of this innovative donation, and the bike shop will enjoy the obvious benefits of giving within their community.Is vetting really that difficult?Difficult, maybe not, but critical – yes. You do not want to “invest” your hard-earned philanthropic funds without fully understanding the mission and use of funds. Paying close attention to the leadership of the foundation or organization is also very important. Passion starts at the top. Gaining a comfort zone for any foundation starts with proper vetting.How do you really select a foundation or cause to give to?This is a personal choice. What is your passion? What is your family background regarding giving or particular issues? You may want to focus on a particular gifting category – health, military, the less fortunate, educational, etc. That’s when the vetting begins, for there are many more options in each category than gifting may allow.What do you like best about your work?Exceeding expectations. By using creativity and imagination, your gift can grow into a much more memorable experience. The satisfaction of giving has just grown exponentially.Who or what inspires you?Two people greatly influenced my adult life – Paul Ecke, Jr., whom I got to befriend during my many years on the Ecke YMCA Board, and Alfred JaCoby, a co-founder, with me, of the Chateau Del Mar Winery and former editor at the San Diego U/T. They were my mentors and great friends. They both had a passion for living life to its fullest. Miss them bothIf you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Would love to ask them how they would like our constitution interpreted today. Jesus Christ and Mickey Mantle. I would like them to sit next to each other and swap stories. Robin Williams to really mess with George and Tom’s minds. Elvis Presley if he sings “hound dog” and, of course, my wife and myself.What is your favorite movie and favorite travel destination?Call me old fashioned but I love the Sound of Music. My favorite travel location is the next place I go. But if you nail me down – anywhere in Italy, anywhere.What is your motto or philosophy of life?If you can’t have fun doing it – don’t do it.