What Charitable Clients Seek In Their Advisors
An excerpt from Doing Well by Doing Good … Improving Client Service, Increasing Philanthropic Capital: The Legal and Financial Advisor’s Role. Published by TPI: The Philanthropic Initiative.
Professional advisors have enormous influence on how individuals, families, and businesses recognize, perceive and act on opportunities for charitable giving and philanthropy. How advisors view their role vis-à-vis their clients’ philanthropic opportunities and objectives can make important differences in how and when their clients give, and how those clients feel about the outcomes. Not incidentally, it can have important consequences for the quantity and quality of philanthropic capital in service to society.
For many years, commentators have remarked on the all-too-common disconnect between client goals and expectations around philanthropy planning and the frequent failure of their advisors to help them realize those objectives. Studies have repeatedly shown many professional advisors are reluctant – and all too frequently unwilling or unable – to counsel their clients effectively about how to define and achieve their philanthropic goals. Lacking the knowledge and expertise to effectively respond to their clients’ philanthropy-related objectives, some advisors fail to serve their clients fully – often missing a competitive practice advantage in the bargain. (So, let’s take a look at what your charitable clients expect from you.)
What Clients Expect
Donor behavior and expectations vary according to wealth levels, age, position on the “philanthropic curve,” working style, and relationship to institutions. However, a growing number of donors want their giving to have high-impact, measurable results. What donors say they need most is objective, unbiased advice about how to realize their philanthropic objectives. They need help in navigating the oceans of electronic information which are now available to them. They want to learn “best practices” from other donors. Many want help finding role models, identifying collaborators, and connecting with peers.
Donors obviously want their advisors to be knowledgeable about tax and financial planning. However, many high-wealth individuals also increasingly expect their legal and financial advisors to be able to assist them with strategic philanthropy. When a client’s need for philanthropy-related counsel exceeds the advisor’s ability to advise, donors expect that their advisors will recruit knowledgeable philanthropy advisors or philanthropy-related organizations as needed.
Many wealthy individuals and wealthy families say they want some or all of the following in their advisors:
Stimulation and/or cultivation of their philanthropic interests
Many donors need to achieve a comfort level with their wealth. They say they want the opportunity to translate inspiration into action. The best approach to helping these donors in their giving will include a combination of tax and financial planning, information on giving mechanisms and strategies, and tools and techniques related to the values and mission side of philanthropy planning.
Opportunities to explore, develop, and/or refine their mission that will motivate their giving
As one donor put it, “I want to imagine the impact that I will have on my community.” Many donors feel that many advisors do not spend sufficient time focusing on the development of philanthropic goals, and/or the narrowing of philanthropic interests.
Advisors who are knowledgeable about philanthropic planning, or who can put them in touch with others who can.
Donors feel that even if an advisor is knowledgeable about philanthropy planning, he or she may be an anomaly, not representative of the field of planners in general. Many donors say they expect referrals to the experts who can meet their specific giving needs.
Advisors who can link information about giving choices to a larger philanthropic process, one that embraces strategic planning.
Many donors say they make an important distinction between philanthropic planning and isolated advice about giving methods. They believe too few advisors are clear about this distinction.
Opportunity to create effective and/or innovative gifts and giving programs.
Donors want to understand issue areas and community needs. They want to learn about best giving practices linked to specific issue areas, and the best tools/approaches for giving in those areas.
Philanthropic planning that will lead to effective and intended outcomes.
Some of those donors surveyed expressed real frustration when their giving failed to achieve its hoped-for outcome.
What clients need and want in the philanthropy counsel they receive and what the professional advisor can and is willing to provide are in many cases out of synch. But it is important that advisors continue to ask the philanthropic question, that more advisors add to their expertise in giving philanthropic advice, and that they be able and willing to make referrals to other sources of philanthropy expertise and counsel as needed.Print PDF