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Seeing Eye-to-Eye with Your Donor's Financial Adviser

(May 27, 2008) Fundraisers at times find themselves at odds with financial advisers over the type or amount of a gift that is to be made by a donor. But there are ways to collaborate with a financial adviser to fulfill the donor's goals of having a solid financial plan and making a lasting contribution to a favorite charity.

Philanthropic adviser Phil Cubeta, ChFC, CAP, advises fundraisers to keep in mind the overall financial goals of a donor and the impact that a major gift will have on those plans in a new report by Charles MacLean, Ph.D., of PhilanthropyNow, entitled Financial Advisors as Guiding Stars to Philanthropic Giving? Approach the donor from the standpoint of the adviser, who looks at the big picture of what a donor wishes to do with his or her wealth, not just from the view that the donor can afford the gift.

Cubeta advises fundraisers to seek their place at the decision-making table and to do so as a teammate. Think of the larger philanthropic picture, not just what you want them to help you fund in the short term.

Expanding Your Donors' Horizons

“Go to advisers with a range of ideas for gifts now and later,” says Cubeta. “Suggest to the potential donor that you are willing, with their permission, to contact the donor's trusted adviser to discuss a gift and how it might be structured.”

Kevin Johnson, CFRE, CSPG, principal of Retriever Development Counsel, LLC, in Portland, Ore., agrees that a fundraiser should be less focused on the short term needs of the charity and more on the big picture of the donor's giving plans.

“The more control you give up, the more you have,” says Johnson. In other words, be open to the donor giving to other organizations and be open to giving advice on charitable giving in general.

“The more you and a financial adviser expand your donor's horizons, the bigger their giving gets,” says Johnson. This involves combining your expertise as a fundraiser with a financial adviser's expertise to offer workable and compelling opportunities for a donor. The more you as a fundraiser create possibilities, and not limits, on the donor the better, he says.

Advising the Advisers 

Financial advisers are getting more involved in encouraging donors to make philanthropic decisions because they are often financially beneficial to a client, according to Johnson, but these advisers are often not able to drum up enthusiasm for a gift's charitable impact in the way a fundraiser can. “A fundraiser can keep the charitable excitement alive and well, both for the donor and the adviser,” says Johnson.

While it may seem easier to skirt around the financial adviser and keep them separate from the “ask,” you may increase the likelihood that an adviser will “kill a deal” by not involving him or her early enough in the game, says Cubeta.

Such considerations as an adviser's concern for a gift's impact on the donor's overall plan, or a gift structure that is not optimal, may sour an adviser on a donation, according to Cubeta.

“They say a lawyer should never ask a question he doesn't know the answer to, but as a fundraiser, you want to stay as open as possible to the nature of a donor's specific plans and goals,” says Johnson. “Don't be afraid to ask about their plans and goals. I would argue that the goals of a financial adviser and a fundraiser are not different. Both have insights and offer new opportunities to a donor.”

In the end, an adviser could very well point out to their client that a gift of a certain size, or larger, is in fact quite feasible. It just may require taking a step out of your comfort zone.

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