Women in Wealth Profile: Schwab's Kim Wright-Violich

For the president of Schwab Charitable, there’s a ‘magic in mixing the for-profit and non-profit worlds.’

It was a “very circuitous route,” says Schwab Charitable President Kim Wright-Violich (left), referring to her “eclectic” career path. She leads this top donor-advised fund (DAF), which has had more than $5 billion in contributions and has granted out more than $2 billion to charitable causes. A 50 Top Women in Wealth alum, Wright-Violich is on the advisory board that will convene shortly to select the 2011 AdvisorOne 50 Top Women.

Wright-Violich was an undergrad science major at Stanford University, and held a sales post at Union Carbide after college, but a sudden family event drew her back to California to be closer to her siblings. Back on the West coast, Wright-Violich worked in real estate development and some family businesses, married and had a family. She began working in philanthropy, “sitting on non-profit boards” while her children were young, and then “when they were school-age, wanted to reengage in a different kind of way.” Wright-Violich explains that she “enjoyed the non-profit work that I did.” She got involved with KQED, the public television station in San Francisco, and “loved it!”

Schwab Charitable

As Schwab Charitable was starting up, Wright-Violich had a meeting with the person who was running the fund. The executive was very capable, but felt it wasn’t a good fit for herself—telling Wright-Violich, “’it’s a better fit for you.’” That was 11 years ago, and Wright-Violich hasn’t looked back.

While the first decade at Schwab Charitable was “removing barriers to giving,” Wright-Violich says, the next decade will be to remove “psychological barriers,” helping donors to gauge the effectiveness of the non-profits there are selecting to grant money out to.

Wright-Violich has made Schwab Charitable an innovator, allowing qualified registered investment advisors (RIAs) to continue to manage clients’ assets after they have been given to the DAF, starting a program in which donors can grant microloans to recipients outside the U.S. with a portion of their DAF holdings, and enabling them to become a guarantor of groups of microloans. These are amazing ways to stretch the value of a donor’s reach and use of their funds because these microloan grants and guarantees can be done again, and again, as the microloans are repaid.

Effective Giving

Many non-profits now use business metrics to plan and to maximize the effectiveness of their efforts—and donors are keen to give to those charitable causes where they can see that their gifts are used efficiently, effectively and wisely.

For advisors whose clients have philanthropic intentions, DAFs make it easy to fund charitable giving strategically, maximizing tax breaks and taking many different kinds of assets, cash, appreciated securities, real estate, or collectibles like art or jewelry to fund the DAF. Grants to non-profits from DAFS can be anonymous or attributed to the donor. DAFs also make it easy for families to get involved at a large or small level—from the five-figures to hundreds of millions of dollars, and to grant out to any charitable 501(c)(3) that qualifies—and there isn’t the overhead that a private family foundation requires. In addition, DAFs offer help to donors to vet the non-profits they are considering grants to. All of this helps donors to become better philanthropists.

For her part in bring the DAF to masses of investors, Wright-Violich “can't imagine departing from this,” she says. “There’s a magic in mixing the for-profit and non-profit worlds;” as she puts it, “it’s a magical combination.”

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