The overwhelming public support to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami demonstrated again that when the need to reduce suffering is great, charitable giving is even greater. But for millions of people, charitable giving extends far beyond helping in the wake of a catastrophe; it is found every day in their on-going commitment to the thousands of large and small causes that perennially benefit their community and their world.

So it is surprising that despite the fact that life insurance and other financial services can be very useful in helping people create or augment their charitable giving, fewer than 1 in 10 insurance and financial advisors broach the subject with their clients–even affluent clients, according to a current LIMRA survey.

These discussions need to take place more frequently. Baby boomers will be transferring an unprecedented amount of wealth in the next 40 years. And many will want to complement their estate planning by making contributions to causes they care about. Advisors can play a critical role in making this happen.

Doing more with clients one-on-one

The first step is to include a discussion of charitable giving into a routine dialogue with clients. Advisors help clients plan for retirement and preserve their wealth for the next generation. Charitable planning meshes with this preparation, yet it may be overlooked simply because no one brings it up. That’s the role of the advisor.

Many clients realize that their success is based not only on ability and hard work, but often on good fortune, too. They want to give something back to help other people or causes, but they may be unaware of techniques that could make their giving go even further. The advisor can help clients devise ways to leverage current assets to do more for the world. Think of how much more could be done for the world if every advisor had this conversation with every client.

That’s an opportunity that advisors and their clients should not miss during the planning or review process, especially since there are so many ways to make a client’s giving go further. Among them:

? Charitable IRA Rollover 2006-2007. Within the Pension Protection Act of 2006 is a provision (ending after 2007) allowing people age 70-1/2 or older to make gifts of up to $100,000 per year directly from an IRA to a charity. The IRA distribution is tax-free. This new law gives advisors a great chance to present a much improved charitable giving opportunity to qualified clients.

? Charitable Remainder Trusts. A trust is set up (often using life insurance) that provides a payment to a donor or designated beneficiary for a period of years or the donor’s lifetime. After the donor’s death, the remaining money in the trust is distributed to one or more charities selected by the donor.

? Charitable Lead Trusts. Property providing a payment stream to the charity for a period of years is placed in trust by the donor. After the payment period ends, the remaining trust property is transferred to a non-charitable beneficiary.

? Charitable Gift Annuity. The donor transfers cash or an asset to a charity, which in turn pays the donor a fixed income stream from an annuity for life.

? Charitable Giving Benefit Rider. Available on some qualifying insurance policies is a special rider that allows policyholders to donate 1% of the policy’s value to a qualifying charity.

Making more of a difference

Integrating charitable giving into a client’s retirement and wealth preservation planning is essential, but a greater opportunity may lie in active support of a charitable organization. Charitable involvement enables advisors to do something meaningful within their community and gain exposure to new prospects.

Involvement with a local charity or a local chapter of a national organization can yield a myriad of both tangible and spiritual rewards for the advisor, including:

? New prospects. Co-sponsoring an event or fundraising with a local charity exposes the advisor to potential clients who need advice on how to make their giving go further. Suggesting solutions that can help them leverage assets to give more will help draw new clients to a practice.

? Publicity. The advisor and/or firm get positive publicity across a local population.

? Increased morale. The advisor can build morale within his or her local office by recruiting business colleagues to join in the fundraising activities.

? Make a difference within a community. Actively engaging clients and prospects in charitable giving, especially by creating strategies that will help them leverage assets and give more, is one of the most effective ways of building broader support for a given charity.

Charitable planning is a natural facet of any comprehensive retirement and estate plan and can help forge deeper client relationships.

However, the motivation to increase charitable planning is born of something deeper: Charities worldwide now depend on private donations for more than 75% of every dollar. These causes depend on everyone’s contributions for their survival. This commitment to do more, be it to reduce suffering, cure disease or insure a better world for generations to come, should be what matters most to everyone.