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7 Steps to Crafting a Philanthropic Mission Your Clients Will Love

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According to a survey of over 120 high-net-worth individuals conducted by U.S. Trust and The Philanthropic Initiative, the following are the top reasons wealthy people give to charity (listed from most important to least important):

  1. Passion for a cause
  2. Strong desire to give back
  3. Positive impact on society and the world
  4. Charitable giving that encourages the next generation to do the same
  5. Religious or spiritual motivations
  6. Obligation of wealth

Creating Meaningful Conversations Around Philanthropy

Your clients value your financial expertise, but they are likely searching for something more than tax structuring — they want to have meaningful conversations with you about their giving passions and create a philanthropic mission that resonates in their hearts.

A heart-to-heart connection, however, is not what most clients get. In the same study mentioned above, less than half (47%) of high-net worth individuals felt their advisors excelled at discussing personal or charitable goals with them. For advisors, it’s crucial to bridge the gap between being merely technically competent and using financial expertise to help clients leave behind a legacy of significance.

Philanthropy takes on a new level of meaning when it aligns with a client’s values and legacy vision. The following are steps you can take to guide your clients through crafting a meaningful philanthropic mission.

Step 1: Which causes connect with their heart?

The objective is to get specific. Let’s say your client would like to contribute to their local hospital. Find out why this is significant. Is it because that hospital treated their daughter when she had cancer? If your client can create a giving project specifically designed for cancer patients at the hospital, it may create a more meaningful connection than a general donation to the hospital would. 

When your client can articulate the significance of their philanthropy, it brings them more joy and their story ignites passion in others.

At my company, we ask several questions to help clients clarify what causes are important to them. One such question is, “What struggles have you or your loved ones overcome, and how did others help or how could they have helped?” Questions like this help your clients to begin thinking about their own struggles and seeking out ways to assist others with similar challenges.

Step 2: What makes them feel good?

People have different motivations for giving. Some people like to be in the trenches and help those in a disaster. Others like to be on boards of charities and direct strategic decisions.

Your clients will give more and experience greater benefits if they know what makes them feel good. Help them determine what gives them that boost, whether it’s working side by side with like-minded individuals, mentoring and passing on knowledge, helping those in trouble or fundraising.

Step 3: How does charitable giving fit into their lifestyle?

Determine how much time and money your clients can realistically give to a cause. If they have limited time but plenty of resources, then their focus should be financial contribution. If they can contribute several hours a week to a cause, help them consider how to spend that time effectively.

Step 4: What are their practical or financial objectives?

How would your clients like to structure their giving? If they have significant assets, perhaps a foundation makes sense. Or they may want to start smaller with a donor-advised fund or other structure. Help them understand tax advantages and how various plans will affect their objectives.

Step 5: Who else would they like to involve?

Many clients want to involve children, other family members or employees in their charitable giving. Discuss how they’d like to include others and what role they will have, if any, in the structuring or financial planning.

Step 6: How would they like to spread the message of their cause?

Does your client want to be publicly known for their charitable efforts, or would they rather remain anonymous? Determine if they need a PR plan to spread their cause’s message. This may be beyond the scope of your expertise, but helping them identify their end vision and referring them to a competent nonprofit marketing firm is something they’ll appreciate.

Step 7: What philanthropic legacy would they like to leave behind?

What are your client’s wishes upon their death or as a part of their succession plan? Discuss how they would like to transfer their philanthropic vision and efforts to the next generation. This is a good time to talk about bringing in heirs and educating them about the philanthropic structures that have been put in place. It’s also a great chance for heirs to ask questions or add to the philanthropic vision.

When you help your clients develop a philanthropic mission based on what connects with their hearts, their sense of significance soars along with your value as an advisor.


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