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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

4 Ways to Help Clients Maximize Their Charitable Impact

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Financial advisors have a unique perspective on philanthropy. We see both sides: Working with ultra-high net worth clients, we have a strong understanding of the wealthy and their motivations to give.

At the same time, we work closely with nonprofit organizations and therefore understand the populations they serve. Both groups have one big thing in common: They want charitable gifts to make a difference.

We’re fortunate to play a critical role in clients’ giving decisions. By providing guidance, advice, perspective, and resources, we can help clients ensure their gifts have a meaningful impact.

It can be a daunting task for financial advisors and clients alike: The abundance of ongoing crises and social movements can make it difficult to know where to begin, as can an array of online resources which often leads to analysis paralysis.

For financial advisors seeking to help their clients make impactful gifts, one factor is key: give proactively. While reactive giving toward disaster relief is critical and must continue, proactive giving is more effective in the long term.

It’s intuitive: The best way to prevent a shark attack is to stay out of the water. The best time to discover cancer is early. The best time to give is always now.

Below are four strategies financial advisors can use to guide their clients toward proactive giving, which can help ensure more effective gifts overall.

1. Make the task at hand explicit.

People like to see their donations have an immediate impact. However, it is the financial advisor’s job to help the clients understand that they are better off thinking of themselves as a gardener, planting and watering solutions that grow over time. It’s best to address proactive giving with clients, well, proactively.

Proactive giving will likely mean shifting a client’s historical approach to giving, and may mean reallocating money away from some organizations and toward others. Pitching proactive giving using data and anecdotes on why it works (just as a financial advisor would with any investment recommendation) is the best way to convince clients to change their approach

2. Outline the benefits of sustained, long-term giving.

Charitable giving soars toward the end of the calendar year. According to Network for Good, a fundraising software, about one-third of all charitable giving occurs in December. Giving Tuesday broke records in 2021, raising an estimated $2.7 billion, a nine percent rise from 2020, according to GivingTuesday Data Commons and Philanthropy.com.

It’s great that “giving season” draws attention to the importance of philanthropy and serves as a nudge for people to get involved, but giving must be a year’s long pursuit in order to be impactful. Sustained giving enables organizations to plan ongoing programming, with the knowledge that they have a secure source of income throughout the year. It also enables them to use dollars for preventative measures, instead of reactive aid.

Ongoing, proactive giving offers tax benefits for clients, too. Since philanthropy and charitable giving can be used as a way to offset tax liabilities, these strategies are sometimes tax-motivated, which require a high level of planning far before holiday season kicks in.

The most savvy clients plan their giving strategies and tax strategies together, in order to get the most out of their charitable dollars. To continue a year-round giving approach, explain this strategy to clients, outline the benefits to both the organizations they donate to and to their own tax strategy, and help them set giving goals annually, that you review together at least quarterly.

3. Offer clients a variety of ways to give.

Not every client is going to be ready to start their own family foundation or organization right off the bat. In fact, many families never will and that’s ok–running your own organization is a lot of work (and added expense) and there are myriad other ways for families to give.

Lighter, less labor intensive giving vehicles can be exactly what families need to shift toward a more proactive giving strategy. This can be effective even for ultra high net worth families–the ones who could or already have started their own organizations–who are looking for stronger, more sustainable ways to make an ongoing impact.

Consider Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) to manage charitable donations on behalf of individuals, families, and organizations. Contributions to a DAF are invested in line with donor preferences and have the potential to grow tax-free, thus enabling the client to reinvest more money into the DAF over time.

DAFs have also made great strides in creating alternative ways for clients to give, including recoverable grant opportunities, which are now available on the Morgan Stanley Global Impact Funding Trust (MS GIFT) platform.

4. Commit to continued education (for your clients, and for you).

Some clients will already have passion projects or know what areas of philanthropy they want to focus on, while others will need more guidance. The best way to get clients to engage in proactive giving — or any giving — is to help them discover and lean into their passion areas.

Margaret Mead, the American cultural anthropologist, said: “”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The most effective philanthropy happens when clients are personally connected to the cause they are supporting.

But even when clients have existing areas of interest, or even existing philanthropic projects, they will likely need help scaling down broad, big-picture ideas into more actionable focus areas where they can make an impact, especially if they are shifting their strategy to proactive philanthropy.

At Morgan Stanley, our team builds Giving Guides that highlight charitable causes and provide critical information needed to make decisions about giving to each. For example, for clients passionate about climate change, we created a guide that takes a look at California wildfires specifically through the lens of climate change.

Tools like these — whether from a financial advisor or elsewhere — are critical resources to get the conversation started, and can help educate clients on the effectiveness of proactive philanthropy. While some may be drawn to give back to aid wildfire victims, the guide helps explain that the dollars are perhaps more effective when used toward wildfire prevention, including forest management, conservation, and climate change efforts

While you may not be an expert on every charitable cause or philanthropic project, you can and should introduce your clients to influencers and thought leaders who can teach them more about the causes they care about. This introductory educational process is also helpful for you as a financial advisor to home in on and evaluate what is most important and how to further learn, engage, and guide clients in the most effective way.

This material is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security or other financial instrument or to participate in any trading strategy. It does not provide individually tailored advice.

It has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it. Information and data contained herein is from multiple sources considered to be reliable and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”) makes no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of the information or data from sources outside of Morgan Stanley.

The Morgan Stanley Global Impact Funding Trust, Inc. ( MS G IFT) i s a n organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended that sponsors a donor advised fund program. MS Global Impact Funding Trust (MS GIFT) is a donor advised fund. Back office administration provided by RenPSG, an unaffiliated charitable gift administrator.

While we believe that MS GIFT provides a valuable philanthropic opportunity, contributions to MS GIFT are not appropriate for everyone. Other forms of charitable giving may be more appropriate depending on a donor’s specific situation.

Of critical importance to any person considering making a donation to MS GIFT is the fact that any such donation is an irrevocable contribution. Although donors will have certain rights to make recommendations to MS GIFT as described in the Donor Circular & Disclosure Statement, contributions become the legal property of MS GIFT when donated.

The Donor Circular & Disclosure Statement describes the risks, fees and expenses associated with establishing and maintaining an MS GIFT account. Read it carefully before contributing.

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Chad Bolick is Head of Philanthropy Management, Family Office Resources at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

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Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”), its affiliates, employees and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors and Private Wealth Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Individuals should consult their tax advisor for matters involving taxation and tax planning and their attorney for matters involving trust and estate planning, charitable giving, philanthropic planning and other legal matters. Morgan Stanley Wealth Management is a business of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. © 2022 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC.  Member SIPC.  CRC 4376390 2/2022

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