Meet Our Giving Team: Leslie Klein

Leslie Klein oversees The Foundation’s professional advisor outreach program and provides high-level expertise in estate and financial planning.
Leslie Klein oversees The Foundation’s professional advisor outreach program and provides high-level expertise in estate and financial planning.

The San Diego Foundation Development & Stewardship Team is here to help you by delivering world-class philanthropy and service, and expertly responding to your needs.

In this Meet our Giving Team blog series, we’re interviewing each of our team members so you can learn more about the individuals – both professionally and personally – who are helping you give confidently to make the most social impact. In today’s post, meet Leslie S. Klein, CFP®, AEP®, Director, Gift Planning Advisor.


What is your favorite part about working at TSDF?

I feel privileged to get to know our donors and learn about their charitable interests relating to their estate plans. This is such a personal journey we get to share. Everyone we have the opportunity to work with, whether they are our colleagues, professional advisors, or donors and prospective donors – wants to help make a difference. The donors’ legacies are made both during their lifetimes and through their gifts afterward.

What do you enjoy most about partnering with donors and philanthropists?

Donors get so inspired by their philanthropy that they want to give now and through their estates. They create their own wealth just by their spirit of giving – it doesn’t matter how big or small their gifts are. At my first Annual Meeting, which was at the new Downtown Library, I was embraced by a couple who wanted to share their plans for saving the environment for their grandchildren. They even had a business card for their program. They’ve continued to lead through convening with other donors and our team about preserving our environment. And they’re passing this spirit on to their children and grandchildren.

What inspires you?

My career has been most meaningful to me because it’s all about relationships. Every day we all have a chance to make a difference. It’s inspiring to be included in donors’ philanthropy to both teach and learn personal and technical strategies. Once a donor decides to give, there are many options for maximizing funds and minimizing taxes. We have a choice to give away to others – it’s the peak of our lives.

My most personal inspiration is from my son, Alexander – with him I get to teach and learn the gift of legacy.

How did you get started working in the nonprofit sector? How did you first learn about TSDF?

Most of my career was corporate trustee work from my early training in financial planning. Watching the joy of clients giving money away, and the impact they were making, was one of the best aspects. One of my clients gave their entire trust to a TSDF fund for Rady Children’s Hospital and another to a fund for the Balboa Park Rose Garden. It was so meaningful to do positive things with people and their wealth instead of dealing with the negative dynamics you hear about.

I wanted to be part of The Foundation because I had experience with the leadership of community foundations from my home city of Cleveland and saw all the good work TSDF was doing, especially for emergency response. As part of TSDF’s professional advisor group, I was able to advise on The Foundation’s interest in strengthening their relationship management and expertise around estate planning. I wrote a job description of what the perfect estate planning position would look like, and I told The Foundation I wanted to be that estate planner. I’ve been with The San Diego Foundation for nine years.

How do you make time for work/life balance?

When I’m out in nature doing the things that I love, and I think about work, I’m free to come up with new ideas and new motivations. I’m very fortunate to love my job, so work is a healthy part of my personal life, as well.

Why do you think San Diego is such a generous region?

I think we live in the best city in the country. With the weather, and the natural beauty of San Diego, the gift of living here makes people want to give back.

What social impact area matters to you the most?

I’m very passionate about human rights and the environment, including people and animals. I’m a huge animal lover and have three house rabbits and two kittens from our local shelters.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?

I take care of my spirit by getting outside with nature and music, which can be good on my own or with another person.

What’s your favorite spot in your neighborhood?

Mission Beach at low tide.

What’s your favorite outdoor activity?

I love to run, sail, and swim for the best view of the outdoors.

What is your favorite book?

Currently, anything Daniel Silva, whose books were introduced to me by a donor who knows I love mysteries and aspire to travel the world.

What is your favorite destination outside of San Diego?

I love being anywhere with my family and especially the British Virgin Islands and Hawaii.