Talking to clients about philanthropy

Myth 1

My clients are not interested in philanthropy
Well, you won’t know if you don’t ask... In fact, the last ten years has seen a sea change in philanthropy in the UK. The newly wealthy are increasingly using their wealth and business experience to create private foundations, start up or support emerging models in philanthropy, test innovative approaches to social issues, and volunteer their time and expertise.

Even in these changing times, philanthropists remain committed to their causes, knowing that this is a time when charities especially need their support, and many are giving even more.

"Charities dealing with poverty in all its forms will need more resources in a downturn... It is important for donors to at least maintain their giving to combat these trends."  Steven Dawson, founding chairman of Impetus Trust

Myth 2

My clients do not want philanthropy advice
Today’s philanthropists have an array of options for their giving, but many simply do not know where to start, and increasingly are turning to their trusted advisors.

Across Europe, 63% of advisors receive more requests for philanthropy advice now than two years ago1; and most ultra high-net worth Europeans want advice, not just information, to help with their charitable giving2. In the US, a significant minority of donors is already seeking advice on giving from accountants (26.6%), wealth advisors (6.6%), lawyers (16.4%) and banks or trust companies (8.7%). In fact, clients initiate conversations with advisors about charitable giving as much as, or more than, their advisors3. Some common areas in which advisors help clients are setting up a charitable trust, advising on tax benefits, involving the family, and introducing clients to other philanthropist clients and to charities they might support4. Yet too few wealth management advisors are fulfilling their clients’ philanthropic needs.

1 The role of wealth advisors in offering philanthropy services to high-net-worth clients, Scorpio Partnership, October 2008

2 Philanthropy amongst Ultra High Net Worth Individuals and Family Offices in Europe: The United Kingdom, Switzerland And Germany, Scorpio Partnership, June 2007

3 Doing Well by Doing Good In California – Improving Client Service, Increasing Philanthropic Capital: The California Legal and Financial Advisor’s Role, The Philanthropic Initiative, 2003

4 Wealth and Philanthropy: the views of those who advise the rich, Philanthropy UK, September 2007

Myth 3

My clients would not want me to pry
Like other sensitive issues on which you advise your clients, discussing philanthropy with your clients can be done unobtrusively, in a way that respects their privacy, values and independence. Of course, clients want advice on taxation and on the best vehicles for their giving. But giving is not just about tax. It’s about what’s in people’s hearts.

Helping clients to give effectively means taking the time to understand what they really want. And as various research demonstrates, what they want is professional advice on how to give more effectively, and to make a positive impact with their giving.

"It broadens our relationship with our clients, as it addresses an area of clients’ lives that they are passionate about." Wealth manager

Myth 4

Philanthropy advice does not provide a positive return to my business

Offering philanthropic advice can help attract and retain clients by expanding the menu of services you offer them. As we can see from the research (see Myth 2), more wealthy clients are becoming philanthropic, and are increasingly seeking professional advice for their giving.

Many wealthy people already have more than one advisor and those who offer the better philanthropic advice may win more of the overall business. Clients who want to be philanthropic will do so anyway, and if you do not offer them this service, there are many others who will!

Clients are already paying for asset management and administrative services for their charitable foundations, and a significant minority of philanthropists are prepared to pay for specialist philanthropy advice, for example on a consultancy or pro rata basis for advice on governance or structuring, grant-making techniques, finding a project and feedback processes1.
Even in the current economic environment, 60% of wealth advisors expect philanthropy to continue to grow over the next five years and become a core pillar of their private client services2.
1 Philanthropy amongst Ultra High Net Worth Individuals and Family Offices in Europe: The United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany, Scorpio Partnership, June 2007
2 The Role of Wealth Advisors in Offering Philanthropy Services to High-Net-Worth Clients, Scorpio Partnership, October 2008

Myth 5

I need to be a philanthropy expert in order to advise my clients

Clients won’t expect you to have every answer at your fingertips, but they will expect you to be able to find out or at least point them in the right direction.


Fortunately, there is a growing range of specialty philanthropy services to help – including the Guide to Giving framework; community foundations to support local giving; advisors such as New Philanthropy Capital which recommend specific charities to support; as well as a variety of specialist philanthropy funds in which your clients might invest.
You also can provide your clients a valuable service by connecting them to other philanthropic clients, to share learning and expertise. Access to networks of like-minded individuals is one of the sources of support most frequently cited by new philanthropists.