Morgan Stanley philanthropy management chief Melanie Schnoll Began

Investors who benefit from inheritance, the sale of a business or another “liquidity event” often want to give some of these resources to charity. But just how much focus do they want to give to this effort? And how important is it to them to create an effective legacy with their assets?

These are the types of questions that Morgan Stanley says its philanthropy management team can tackle as very few rivals can.

“Some firms have a few people – we seem them as snorkelers, while we are scuba divers,” said the group’s leader, Melanie Schnoll Begun, in an interview.

For the first time last week, Morgan Stanley’s philanthropy team worked with the Social Impact Exchange to host a conference in New York. The event drew about 450 guests, such as existing clients and prospects, and highlighted the issue of “scale” as a means for donors and foundations to tackle social problems. (It featured a number of speakers, including one from Bank of America.)

The objective of such events is to bring funders, foundation leaders and nonprofit leaders together and discuss their common goals, collaboration and “how they can best achieve a collective impact,” Begun said.

“We are delighted by the interest and had a huge waiting list for this year’s event,” she explained. “Next year, we hope to accommodate more guests.”

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley plans to host two smaller events in cooperation with SIE in Los Angeles and San Francisco over the next few months.

“We expect some advisors will join us,” along with clients, clients’ family members and others, she said. “We want to create a venue for advisors to get to know potential clients too – these are such great networking, academic and social opportunities.”

The Morgan Stanley philanthropy management team has six staff members in New York, along with staffers in San Francisco, according to Begun, and they each referred to as a philanthropic concierge. Through its donor-advised fund group, another 100 professionals out of the firm can be tapped by advisors and clients, along with 30 individuals at the wirehouse’s law firm, which supports its tax-exempt work.

“This all means we have a lot more eyes, ears and experiences to help us help advise clients in [excellence],” she explained. “An advisor with a client who might be new to philanthropy [could attend an event], which then would deepen and enrich the relationship they may have had [already] with the client for decades.”

Begun says her group, of course, doesn’t work with all of Morgan Stanley’s high-net-worth clients – but when such contact takes place, it is usually intense.

“Clients come in and out of relationships with us, usually in their work on huge projects, such as their support for building facilities at an Ivy Leagues school – which we have two clients negotiating the terms on right now, for instance, with the provosts, deans and university development teams,” she explained. “We also help by making sure a client’s interest is reflected in grant agreements over the years, so the terms are actually going to happen. It requires so much work.”

Morgan Stanley introduced its donor advised fund platform about 14 years ago. Last year, it awarded about $1 billion in grants.

“We have the ability to accept any kind of asset – liquid or not, such as real estate, antiquities, precious gems, art collections, car collections and more … We can help clients sell these assets and then use the proceeds for grants.”

The firm, which has a total of 15,888 advisors, says that about 1,000 advisors in Private Wealth Management, Graystone Consulting and Family Wealth work regularly with its philanthropy management group.

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