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Q&A: Bryan Clontz, Leon L. Levy Fellow in Philanthropy

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Bryan Clontz Leon L. Levy fellowThe American College, the nation’s largest nonprofit educational institution devoted to financial services, recently announced that Bryan Clontz has been named as the first Leon L. Levy Fellow in Philanthropy for 2014. Clontz will work to research and promote the best practices of philanthropy, with a particular focus in assisting advisors and nonprofit gift planners collaborate to better serve the needs of clients and donors. 

Q: Congratulations on being named the Leon L. Levy fellow in philanthropy. In your view, what separated you from other candidates for this honorable position?

A: Thank you. I have been active with The American College in various ways for nearly 20 years, but the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy program (CAP) and work has always excited me the most — it’s unique in that it’s the only designation that’s devoted entirely to helping advisors and fundraisers collaborate to unleash the generosity of wealthy clients in the estate planning, gift planning and financial planning processes. When the Fellowship came up, the College’s goals almost perfectly matched my current work and interests so it was a perfect fit. I am honored to have been selected, but frankly, am even more humbled the more I learn about Mr. Levy’s success, vision and philanthropy.     

Q: How did you get into the philanthropic field?

A: I started as a college life insurance agent in Charleston, S.C. In the “you can’t make this up” category, my very first Chamber of Commerce cold call was to the John Ancrum SPCA. I will never forget how easy it was to set the appointment up, and he even told me that he had been waiting for me to call. During my meeting, I quickly discovered that he thought I was another person who had previously convinced them to have a board meeting on planned giving. The problem was this person didn’t call back and the meeting was only a week away. So I said I would be happy to do it, raced home to read everything I could on the topic, and then made the presentation the next week after my corporate finance final. They became my first client. I couldn’t believe there was an area of financial planning where people could give assets away, basically using redirected tax dollars, to the charities they loved. I have never looked back and have loved every minute of my charitable work.  

Q: As the Leon L. Levy Fellow, what are some of your initiatives that will benefit the advisor community?

A: The primary themes are to deepen advisor charitable knowledge, connections and motivations. Are [advisors] comfortable having the conversation around tools and techniques? Are they taking full advantage of the existing natural partners (e.g., community foundations, religious foundations, etc.)?  Are they comfortable raising the right questions in the right way at the right time?  Working with Phil Cubeta, the Wallace Chair in Philanthropy, we expect to deliver 30-50 speeches to advisor groups, deepen connections with community foundations/religious foundations for CAP study groups, and create enhancements to CAP curriculum.  

Q:  What positions do you currently hold?

A: I am the founder of Charitable Solutions, LLC, a planned gift risk management firm. I also created and manage the Dechomai Foundation, which is a donor-advised fund solely dedicated to noncash assets, and also founder/president of Emergency Assistance Foundation, Inc., which private labels large employer/employee relief and personal hardship funds.

Q: Philanthropic planning, though noble in its cause, remains a niche market. Do you agree? If so, what do you see for this segment in the future?

A: Yes and no. It is hard to say something is a niche when 95 percent or more of advisors’ clients are doing it. But it has only been in the last five to seven years that advisors are helping their clients give smarter and with more impact. When we see billionaires and millionaires saying that leaving everything to their children is not a primary goal, the question becomes ‘what do clients wish to do with their surplus during life and at death?’ How can advisors help with these values-based discussions, which are inherently embedded in any financial or estate plan? In my view, advisors are finally catching up and even leading their clients going beyond just tools and techniques, and creating much deeper client relationships. And this is exactly what the CAP program and the Leon L. Levy Fellowship intends to accelerate.

Clontz will contribute his intelligence to Charted Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) courses, a designation founded by Sallie B. and William B. Wallace 12 years ago. The designation, the only one of its kind in the nation, helps advisors and fundraisers collaborate to unleash the generosity of wealthy clients in the estate planning, gift planning and financial planning processes. In addition to his own research, publications and public speaking, Clontz will be promoting philanthropic best practices across a wide range of College programs and initiatives.