The Philanthropy Conversation

I recently tweeted some research that we had done by UnCommon Innovation on the state the financial services sector.  The focus on the study was on how advisors are talking with their clients about charitable giving.  What came out loud and clear is that advisors are looking for tools and resources to have deeper, more meaningful conversations with their clients about philanthropy.  These tools and resources can come from a number of places, the most knowledgeable place would be the charitable sector itself.

James Temple from PWC, along with his colleague Jill McAlpine, presented at the Imagine Canada Canadian Business & Community Partnership Forum, on the topic of capacity building in the non-profit sector.  For a long time, there was the drive for charities to turn to their corporate funders to provide them with the knowledge and skills for effective execution... now is the time for charities to take the initiative to provide companies with knowledge on the charitable sector.  I don’t mean for organizations to meet with every wealth manager to share just their individual agency’s story.  I do mean for charities to take on the role of ambassadors for the sector and act as a resource on the social issues and the ways that advisors can manage the risks (perceived or otherwise) of having philanthropic conversations with clients.

I am often asked how I go about directing a client to charity.  My response is always the same, the client does the directing, I merely do the asking.  The questions I ask start high level about how charitable decisions are made, how social engagement is modeled and what commitment level they want to have with the organization.  From there we drill down to what their social vision is, we craft a family mission statement (because every action feeds back to a mission), and then we look at organizations.  Throughout this conversation, risk tolerance and expectations on deliverables are being assessed and identified.

There are no standards by which to evaluate and rank charities.  So I don’t. Dexterity Consulting and its sister company – Place2Give, provide tools so that donors can do their own evaluation.  We also provide resources for advisors to have deeper, more meaningful conversations with their clients around philanthropy and community building. 

When looking at the effectiveness of charitable giving, there are so many things that play into the delivery model.  The role and influence of the board, the knowledge and ability of the implementation staff, the reputation, integrity and credibility of the organization within the sector are just as important (I would even argue more important) than the admin:program cost ratio. 

Call to Action: There have been many discussions in the field and now is the time to break away from old paradigms of charities and donors and move into a new space of adaptive philanthropy, where the social vision becomes the focus.