If you are a trusted advisor to wealthy individuals or families, chances are you’ve talked with your client at some point about their philanthropy. Perhaps it was a hurried 4th quarter conversation, as charitable giving for tax reasons kicks into a higher gear. Or maybe you felt it was something outside your realm of expertise or comfort level, and so you avoided altogether. Philanthropy, after all, is their business—isn’t it?
I had an interesting conversation last week with a colleague – a highly successful asset manager – that went something like this:
- Me: You have ‘philanthropy’ listed on your website as one of your services. what do offer your clients?
- He: Not a lot, I don’t seem to have the time to help them. I’m more focused on growing their money, not helping them give it away.
- Me: Understandable. However, your personal philanthropy and commitment to community is extensive. This should be an easy conversation!
- He: It’s NOT. What am I supposed to ask them?
Let’s be honest: In the hierarchy that is asset management, estate planning, and legacy planning, very often philanthropy falls to the bottom of the list as an ‘extra’. Or it’s left out of the dialogue altogether.
Are financial advisors missing an opportunity here?
Consider this: Talking philanthropy with your clients is probably the easiest way to deepen your relationship with them, plus add value to the service you provide. You may be already planning your clients’ estate; philanthropy is just an extension of that planning.
Most individuals and families who engage in philanthropy (even 4th quarter, last-minute giving) want to do it right. They want to give to the causes they care about, and make an impact. Many have no idea how to go about it. They may look to you, their accountants, advisors or family office managers, to guide them. Even if they don’t reach out to you initially, you can show up for them in that way.
This reminds me of Bank of America’s 2012 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy. Among other stats about giving, the study found that only 5 percent of high net individuals who give had a mission statement for their philanthropy. 5 percent! I wonder how successful businesses would be if only 5 percent had a dedicated ‘reason for being.’
The more high net worth individuals and families get clear on their charitable intentions and activities, the greater the chance they will be able to make real, lasting change. Imagine if you were the one who helped your client discover their passion, drill down on the impact they want to make, and then find the ‘right’ organizations to make it happen?
How do you move the conversation past changes in tax laws, and how they affect their charitable giving…to helping your clients make their charitable giving a strong investment in their community, as their assets grow?
Don’t wait for your clients to bring up philanthropy. Ask them about it. All it takes is a few questions to start the conversation.
- What vehicles have you or are you using for charitable giving?
- At what times throughout the year do you typically give, and why?
- What have you given to in the past?
- What motivates your giving? What issues do you care about, or find concerning?
- What’s the change you would like to see in your community or chosen area of giving?
- What kind of values would you like to impart to your children, grandchildren through your giving?
Facilitating conversations around philanthropy is not difficult. While more intentional giving may take some work for your clients (or your family, if you are philanthropist yourself), the rewards well outweigh the effort. If I can support you in your process, or help you facilitate conversations with your clients, drop me a line at Suzanne@SuzanneHammer.com and let’s get started.