Advisor's Quarterly Update

You are here


Clients rightfully expect that their financial and legal advisors will provide the highest quality professional advice. To meet client expectations, advisors must be proactive in obtaining comprehensive information from their client - not only about their financial history but also about personal values, including charitable giving. One study shows that many advisors are lacking in how they address client philanthropic interests.

In a report titled the U.S. Trust Study of the Philanthropic Conversation (2013), less than half of high net worth consumers are fully satisfied with the philanthropic conversations they have with their advisors. Advisors tend to focus on the technical aspects of philanthropy, whereas clients focus on personal passions and charitable interests. These discussions impact the quality of the relationship between advisor and client, especially if the client is in a time of transition.

Clients frequently consult their advisor at the occurrence of a milestone event – a birth, death, graduation, sale of an asset, or move to another residence. It is precisely when these events occur that clients reflect on their values and the legacy they wish to leave. For some clients their legacy means giving back to the organizations that have been important in their life.

Many advisors are asking that clients complete a questionnaire in advance of the initial meeting, including questions about philanthropic interests. Examples of questions are:

  • To which charities do you make financial contributions, and why?
  • List the charities you support in their order of philanthropic priority to you.
  • Do you volunteer or have a leadership position at any charities, and if so which ones?
  • Do your family members or others play a role in your charitable giving, and how?
  • Do you have planned gifts with any charities, and have you given that consideration?

Many clients are not aware of public information that may affect their philanthropic decisions. Therefore, some advisors choose to offer a service vetting the non-profit organizations their clients wish to support.

Advisors can add depth to the advisor-client relationship not only in reviewing financial goals, but by engaging clients in a discussion about their values and how those values may be reflected in their charitable interests. Clients will welcome the advisor’s expertise and experience in helping to establish their legacy. By guiding clients along that path, advisors, to a certain degree, are also creating their own legacy.