Drennen Honors 12 Grandchildren with $3 Million Gift to United Way

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A Birmingham insurance executive recently purchased a permanent life insurance policy on each of his 12 grandchildren and named United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) as the beneficiary. Officials say the $3 million planned gift is the largest the organization has ever received from a single donor.

Dan Drennen, a senior financial advisor or for the Mass Mutual Financial Group, made the gift last fall to honor his grandchildren, says Kathy Briscoe, UWCA’s vice president of Legacy Gifts.

“Those 12 policies, when they come to fruition, will generate a $10,000 annual gift to United Way per policy,” she says. “This ensures that the United Way will receive the gifts in perpetuity in the name of each child.”

UWCA, partners with other nonprofits that address various needs in the community. Central Alabama addresses the most important needs in the community partnering with over 80 organizations, including the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, Gateway and partner coalitions such as Bold Goals, Priority Veteran and the Health Action Partnership.

Drennen, a native of Birmingham and father of four, says that in addition to honoring his grandchildren, who range in age from 1 to 7, he made the gift as a way to give back to his community.

“It was just one way that I could set an example for my children and grandchildren,” he says. “I hope this will inspire my family and many other Birmingham families to help enable the needy to enjoy better lives.”

Drennen says that while his grandchildren are too young to comprehend the gifts he made to the UWCA on their behalf, he hopes they will learn about them when they are older.

“Right now, I’m too busy reading nursery stories and spending time playing games with them” he says. “But once they’re old enough to understand, I would love for them to know about what’s been done.”

Drennen’s family members have been longtime United Way supporters, says Briscoe, including his mother, Marilyn Drennen, who has contributed to the organization for nearly 50 years.

Dan Drennen says he began supporting UWCA nearly 30 years ago after a chance meeting with the late Tom Jernigan, the former chairman and CEO for the Marathon Corporation. Jernigan was a major UWCA donor, volunteer leader and a charter member of UWCA’s prestigious giving circle called the Tocqueville Society of Central Alabama.

“Tom inspired me that day in our discussion about giving back to our city from where our resources come,” says Drennen. “I promised myself and Tom that one day I would give back to Birmingham.”

Jernigan died in 2008. Seven years later in 2015, Drennen moved back to Birmingham from South Florida and that is when he decided that his time had come to do even more to support the UWCA, he says. With help from UWCA legacy gift advisors, Drennen says he learned about the different options for giving.

Donations to the UWCA go to support the agency’s resource development efforts including its endowment. The endowment today has more than $18 million in realized gifts and $33 million in expected gifts.

Donors can choose between several funding options, including a membership to one of the UWCA’s giving societies. Members in the highest giving levels, called the Tocqueville Society, contribute a minimum of $10,000 annually while Tocqueville Legacy Circle members like Drennen, may choose to contribute $250,000 or more to the endowment.

In addition, UWCA finds matching dollars for gifts made through some of the organization’s funding programs. In Drennen’s case, Briscoe says, UWCA will match dollar for dollar the portion of the life insurance premiums that he pays.

Drennen says he always took advantage of charitable matching programs offered by his employers. So when he heard about UWCA’s matching program, he knew it was for him.

“I think that other families in Birmingham that are large families should hop on this matching gift bandwagon,” Drennen says. “It’s a great way to expand the programs of the United Way.”