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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving > Donor Advised Funds

The 6 Stages of the ‘Philanthropic Curve’

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The 2011 Conference on Philanthropy opened on Thursday in Chicago with conference Chairman Scott Farnsworth advising attendees to “start a big ideas page,” in our notebooks. He added, "If you can take away one really big, killer idea and one incredible relationship," the conference will be a roaring success

Advisors in Philanthropy (AIP) President Alan Pratt introduced keynote speaker Peter Karoff, founder of The Philanthropy Initiative, to the crowd of about 180 attendees.

Speaking about "integrity, accountability and the translation of what you know, who you are, into the practice of philanthropy," Karoff said that the "roles of actors in philanthropy" are "still evolving." What philanthropy “does best is unlock capacity…untouched capacity resides within you.”

Why Are You Here?

Karoff said there is always a catalyst that gets advisors involved with donors. He asked the group of advisors: "What event is the major reason why you're in this room?"

One attendee noted that it was, "an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy,” years ago, about “Rockefeller fund advisors” who said “nobody’s talking to the donors."

"My wife's sudden death,”said another attendee, left him, “feeling that traditional estate planning failed to allow her to leave an enduring imprint on the world."

Karoff cited the "Poetics of philanthropic advising: deep listening, [creating a relationship] and getting from the donor what they really want to do."

In Karoff’s view, “philanthropy transforms research into practice to make sure the best knowledge is applied to solve societal problems. Advisors translate into terms that a client understands how to enable the client to use the available knowledge to achieve their philanthropic goals.”

Strategic Philanthropy

The next step is "strategic philanthropy," which moves the philanthropic team from "reactive" to deliberative and "proactive," said Karoff. To apply the "elements of strategic philanthropy,” he says advisors should “look for gaps where resources can be applied to really make difference, pick great people, and follow it.”

JP Morgan, years ago, provided to their private clients something called the “Philanthropic Curve,” Karoff said. It goes like this:

  1. Become a donor—giving becomes part of life, over time giving becomes automatic, in small amounts to an increasing number organizations.”
  2. Get organized—control the giving process instead of it controlling you; fewer, larger gifts.”
  3. Become a learner—roll up your sleeves to survey the community you wish to affect. Distinguish between gifts you must make and real philanthropy.”
  4.  “Maximize giving—more concerned with results Invest in the best nonprofit entrepreneurs you can find or have someone search for the best people for you.”
  5. Leveraged philanthropy—collaborate with other donors; create models to be replicated; become increasingly competent about issues and what really works.”
  6. Nirvana.”

The Advisor-Donor Relationship

"The relationship starts with a totally safe space,"Karoff explained. That way the donor doesn’t have to feel like they already need to know everything, they get started and learn along the way. "The donor-advisor relationship is based on respect; that turns into trust and eventually into love," he asserts. "When you get this right it becomes a great gift to the client."


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