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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

13 Questions to Ask Your Clients About Philanthropy

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What You Need to Know

  • Don't be afraid to start a conversation about philanthropy. It's the first step.
  • If the client is receptive to charitable giving, whether now or in the future, ask them what they're passionate about.
  • Get them thinking about a desired legacy, and map out the next steps toward getting there.

Estate planning attorneys and wealth advisors can strengthen client relationships by supporting their clients’ charitable goals. But too often they feel ill-equipped to start the conversation.

Here’s the thing: If you never talk to your clients about philanthropy, they will never know it’s something you can help them with! Wondering where to begin? These 13 questions will help you have better and more powerful philanthropic conversations with your clients.

Questions to get the conversation started

  1. I’d like to discuss philanthropy (charitable giving) with you as part of our overall conversation. Is that something you’d be open to?
  2. My clients are increasingly including philanthropy as part of their estate plan. Is that something you would be interested in discussing?
  3. Is philanthropy important to you right now, or is it something you’d like to discuss in the future?

Questions to help your clients recognize all the ways they have been philanthropic, and what that has meant to them

  1. Tell me about the ways you (and your family or company) have been philanthropic (charitable). This includes giving to nonprofits, volunteering, serving on boards, donating products, etc.
  • What have those experiences been like for you (positive or negative)?
  • What are you most proud of?
  1. In what ways were (are) your parents, grandparents or kids philanthropic (including volunteering, etc.)?
  • What have you learned or observed from their experiences?
  1. In what ways have you or your family benefited from the generosity of others (e.g., receiving a scholarship, a nonprofit that helped immigrant parents resettle in the U.S., their child benefited from a large grant their school received, etc.)?
  • What impact did that have on you/your family?

Questions to help them think and get excited about being more philanthropic

  1. Are there any issues or causes that you are passionate about?
  2. What impact would you like to have with your philanthropic giving? On whom?
  3. What kind of philanthropist/philanthropic family do you want to become?
  4. If you were to accomplish only ONE thing with your philanthropy, but it would be your legacy, what would that be?
  5. What would become possible if you were to achieve that? What would become possible for you? For your family? For others (e.g., the nonprofits, communities, people that would benefit)?

Questions to determine next steps

  1. Would you like to include philanthropy as part of your estate plan or wealth management plan?
  2. What are our next steps? Agree upon them and when you will reconvene.

 5 things to keep in mind

  1. Keep it conversational.
  2. Share your own experiences, or those of other clients (confidentially) as appropriate.
  3. Don’t let fear get in your way:
  • Don’t worry if you aren’t a philanthropy “expert.” The point is to get them thinking and talking about philanthropy and determine if they want philanthropy to be part of their estate plan or wealth planning.
  • Assume they DO want to talk about philanthropy and that this conversation is the opportunity they’ve been waiting for.
  1. Keep it positive. Help your clients avoid feeling bad or guilty if they haven’t been as charitable as they would like. Reassure them that it’s OK.
  2. Imagine the impact YOU will have on your client and the ripple effect on the world if they become more philanthropic because of this conversation. 

Kris Putnam-Walkerly is president and philanthropy advisor at Putnam Consulting Group, and author of “Delusional Altruism.” Learn more at


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