The great American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson crisply observed that “every
man is a consumer and ought to be a producer.” Looking at the resumes of this year’s distinguished inductees to our Advisor Hall of Fame brings a ready paraphrase to mind: “Every advisor is a trader and ought to be a giver.”

Calling financial advisors traders is not a put-down. When you earn a commission or fee for your services, you are trading your services for the clients’ remuneration. This is a mutually advantageous trade for which no apologies are needed. It’s simply interesting to note how typical it is for the highest echelon of financial advisors to be active philanthropists.

Whether it is Brenda Blisk’s involvement with the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center; John Cary with the Oklahoma Museum of Military History; Roger Green with the Touching Lives Ministry; Mary McFadden Hastings with the Lexington Chamber of Commerce; or Mark Smith with the Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants’ Education Foundation, this year’s Hall of Fame inductees as well as past years’ inductees are givers.

There is a phrase in common currency these days about “giving back to the community.” The phrase — specifically the word “back” — just does not ring true. Mary McFadden Hastings has served on innumerable boards in her hometown of Lexington, Mass. Sure, she has benefited from the services offered by Lexington in her decades of residence there. But that’s a trade, not a taking for which she must give back. She has paid taxes to the city and the city has in turn rendered services to her. Through her tireless commitment on behalf of Lexington, she is a very large net giver — not simply “giving back” as the phrase has it.

It might be far fairer to suggest — and thus to explain the association of successful business people with active philanthropy — that the community is giving back to the philanthropist.

What does the business person get?

Visibility in the community, which could lead to new accounts or referrals.

Business acumen, which comes from consideration of the intricate issues of the entity
being served.
Emotional growth, which comes from service. Why do parents love their children so much? Because they do so much for them, which instills feelings of love and commitment.

Perhaps these Hall of Fame winners, like their predecessors in previous years, have discovered through their experiences that what goes around really does come around. No doubt their motivations have been altruistic. But in selflessly doing for others, they attain the aura of responsible and caring people whom clients want to be served by as well.

During this season of giving, it is worth reflecting anew on how you might make a difference in your community. When you later find the community giving back to you, it’ll just be icing on the cake.

Robert Tyndall
Publisher Emeritus
rtyndall@researchmag.com