How donors and their advisors -- financial planners, trust and estate officers and attorneys and tax professionals -- speak to each other. That was the topic of a national survey last year by the U.S. Trust in partnership with the Boston-based Philanthropic Initiative.
Kalamazoo Community Foundation (KZCF) recently brought Claire Costello, a managing director with U.S. Trust in New York, to Kalamazoo to speak with area professional advisors. Costello, who also serves as vice-chair of the National Center for Family Philanthropy, compared current survey results to a similar survey from 2013.
The survey asked about the importance of client values, why they give, what matters to them and what they need to know to make informed decisions. Another important topic of discussion: how best to involve the next generation and the importance of leaving a legacy.
Costello explained that while the frequency, depth and quality of these conversations have increased, "they still fall short of their potential." Clients want conversations that go beyond tax benefits, says Costello. "They want conversations to include life goals, values and passions so they can achieve their philanthropic ambitions for themselves, their families, and their communities."
Following Costello's presentation of results from the national survey, a panel of five area professional advisors shared their experiences in talking with clients.
Panel members included: Bill Millard, Dement & Marquardt; Jeff Ross, Jeff K. Ross Financial Services; Nancy Springgate, James & Springgate, PLC; Sabrina Pritchett-Evans, State Farm Insurance; and Karen Bouche, Greenleaf Trust. They shared a variety of approaches that work for them and their clients.
"No amount of money is too small to involve your next generation," says Bouche. "Learn something new every day about the community and focus on the 'why' of giving."
Pritchett-Evans says that professional advisors don't have to have all the answers, but need to ask clients what they're involved with. "They light up when they can share what they're passionate about."
Millard encourages clients to give, but never suggests how much or that they should give more. He shared how a client once wanted him to decide what community need deserved a portion of their giving.
Using personal stories about their family is one approach to talking to clients about what they value. Ross says he got his own kids to volunteer one day at a homeless shelter and they came away saying, "Nobody should have to live that way."
Springgate says how clients will sometimes have an idea for solving a problem only to find out that one of the community's 400-plus active nonprofits is already addressing their issue. "Who is already doing this work," she asks, "so you can support them."
Joanna Donnelly Dales, vice president for Donor Relations at KZCF, believes that donors and potential donors benefit from these conversations. "Charitable giving is an extremely personal decision," says Dales. "Donors rely on advisors to help guide these decisions and we want them to be able to listen and connect with their clients as effectively as possible. Ms. Costello presented valuable information and our local panelists shared practical tips for engaging clients in meaningful conversations."
Looking for ways to align your giving with your goals and values? Contact a Donor Relations Officer at 269.381.4416 to start a conversation today or visit kalfound.org/HowtoGive.