Pattianne Baran raises money every year for the Alzheimer’s Association. She contacts all of her clients, tells them about her family history with the disease and asks them to contribute. She has a patron who matches every contribution. The Lakewood, Ohio-based partner with LTC Financial Partners arrived at her passion for the cause the way most people seem to: through her family.
For two years Baran drove to New York on weekends to help her sisters take care of their Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother. A stroke landed her mother in a nursing home, which wiped out her parents’ savings. Six months after her mother died, Baran’s brother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He was barely 40.
Baran quit her job, got certified to sell LTCI and embarked on a career she never saw coming: LTCI specialist. One of the original 35 partners with LTCFP, Baran, in addition to running her practice, has spent the last several years managing the household?paying the bills, watching the finances, supervising the 24/7, in-home care staff for a woman afflicted with cerebral palsy.
“It’s my job to give back,” Baran says of her charitable actions. Fortune smiled down on Rob Marshall, a senior financial advisor with West Des Moine, Iowa’s Ameriprise Financial, because he chose to take part?and a leadership role?in a charitable event. New to town, Marshall needed a way to get involved, and he found it when American Express Financial Advisors agreed to sponsor the National Kidney Foundation Classic Golf Tournament in Des Moines, and the Kidney Foundation asked if AEFA would provide a chairman. Enter Marshall, a golfer. What sold him at the time, he says, was the fact he got the foursome that came with the sponsorship. Fifteen years later, however, Marshall is still in charge.
“From that point, I had an unbelievable opportunity to raise money,” Marshall says. “But I also became connected in the community as a philanthropist and a financial advisor, at the same time. I couldn’t have put together a marketing plan that would provide the opportunity to meet the people I’ve met and get the clients I’ve gotten.”Marshall and Baran point out and it’s a sentiment echoed by many other advisors that they didn’t get involved with a business payoff in mind, but that once they got involved with doing the right thing, they were repaid many times over.
The owners of Frazier/Hunnicutt Financial in Portland, Ore., found the same thing when they started their charitable push five years ago. In fact, they now include their charitable activities in their planning.
“Community involvement is a large portion of what our professional marketing plan is,” says Andrew Frazier. “We do all the other stuff, too, but we’ve found that nothing has a bigger return than the charitable activities.”
And those returns aren’t just financial. Most of the ROI is in goodwill, which is beyond measure. For financial advisors who rely on relationships, that should speak for itself.”The indirect ROI has been more profitable,” Frazier says. “As we have gained roles in nonprofits, it has opened doors to other circles, and that has opened the doors to tons of referrals to other circles that extend beyond the organization.”
Baran likes to say she’s earning angel feathers through her charitable work. “In the bigger picture, LTC is from the heart. It’s not a financial sale. Our job is to help those we can.” Frazier says that getting involved is even more important for young advisors because it gives them the chance to sit with top executives and network with levels of professionals they couldn’t have reached through traditional methods. The marketing impact grows.
Passion or nothing
You can’t get involved with a cause or an organization merely because it’s part of a marketing plan. People can smell a rat. “You do run into some who make clear they’re in it just to help their business,” says Rich Strehl, a Brandon, Fla.-based financial advisor with LPL Financial. “That’s the wrong reason. When you have other motivation for getting involved, it’s usually short-lived.”
Chicago-based Steve Braun, CLU, a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual Financial, agrees. “Only take part in those causes that are genuine to you.” One of Braun’s clients asked him to go to a tennis charity event. Whether or not the client knew it, Braun has been playing tennis since he was 5 years old. The game is dear to his heart, so he said “yes.” Now, Braun went because he genuinely cared about tennis and the scholarships the event would provide to underprivileged teens, but he netted a new client he wasn’t looking for, which led to a large commission and he and his wife also met entertainer Tony Bennett.
Four years later, Bennett came to the Chicago area for two shows and he remembered Braun and his wife; the crooner invited them as VIP guests. Saying yes to his client turned into one of those serendipitous moments that is still paying dividends for Braun. Frazier and his partner, Mathew Hunnicutt, noticed many young professionals wanted to help but couldn’t find the right cause. They founded Young Professionals of Portland, an organization that allows professionals to assist each other in getting involved with civic activities. As the group grew, Frazier partnered with Hands on Greater Portland, a non-profit that gathers volunteers, trains them and distributes them to other non-profits. The meshing of goals was perfect, and the organizations are still helping each other.
“When you’re on the front line,” Frazier says, “you know you’re making a difference.” And as they’ve helped connect professionals with charities and other professionals, they’ve seen an up tick in their connections, as well. “The majority of our business is now built off civic marketing and involvement.” Strehl is on the board of the Greater Brandon Community Foundation. It holds five major fundraising events each year and gives the money to selected local charities. He has seen the Foundation help children and adults, and he knows his actions are making a difference, which is payment enough for him. But he’s found that being selfless pays off?expected or not.
“[Doing the right thing] does help my business because I meet people in places of influence,” Strehl says. “Charity is filled with people who have attained a high level of success.” Many of those people who have attained significant success and are looking to give back are clients?your clients. They expect the people they work with to build relationships and take part in the things that matter to them. Which is why Braun says “yes” so often. He says if someone calls him personally to ask for his involvement, he never says no.
“I’m building connections and rapport beyond planning,” Braun says. “If your goal is to build relationships, this is one of the most powerful ways to do it.” It’s part of a positive internal marketing strategy. And it often translates to external marketing, too. It can’t start that way, though. Get involved, let your name get known and use that momentum to turn community involvement into networking and marketing gold. Plus, you’ll feel better about yourself and your world. “There are few things in life more gratifying than getting involved,” Strehl says. “You get to meet great people and do your part to make the world better.”