by Anna C. Nelson, EA, CSPG, Founder, Mosaic Financial Solutions
Behind every gift, there is a story.
On one side, there is the charitable organization doing amazing things. The work you and the rest of the staff do is important, and the cause is close to a future donor's heart.
On the other, there is the donor’s story: why they want to make a gift, and to which causes.
In general, these types of donors have built their wealth over time. They worked hard. Yes, there are tax benefits to giving to charities, but the driving force is the desire to see beyond themselves and their family, for a community or society as a whole. A desire to be part of the bigger picture, the grander mosaic of life.
As a major gifts officer, you know well the importance of understanding and respecting these stories. Much of your work is building and cultivating donor relationships. It takes time and consistency to get to the end goal: writing new chapters together.
One of the best ways to make sure these stories come together is with the guidance of a financial advisor.
A financial advisor is someone who bridges these stories. They’re the “editor” of this merging story, and they’ll make sure the right kind of asset goes to the charity in the right way. An advisor makes sure the final read is a seamless one and that the writer and reader (or donor and charity in this case) are both happy with the final result.
In most cases, financial advisors work in a fiduciary role with their client the donor, meaning they must have their client's best interest in mind. In the case of a donation, advisors make sure that the most appropriate asset or assets will be going to the charity.
Does your potential donor already have a financial advisor?
Here are a few considerations:
Your possible donor doesn’t seem to have an advisor. What should you do?
Once you’ve identified a few good potential advisors, dig a little deeper. Ask probing questions about their expertise, experience, and practices around charitable donations. Cultivating a relationship with a financial advisor is very similar to strengthening relationships with donors: the more specific and intentional you are, the better.
Keep in mind all financial planners/advisors have different areas of focus, practice sizes, and clientele. Unlike attorneys and some CPAs, we are generally not paid by the hour. I have a fee-for-service model, but most use an Assets under Management model.
Congratulations! Your donor made a generous contribution to your organization.
Once the gift is completed and all responsibilities have finished, you may want to maintain the relationship with your advisor. But do it wisely! As an advisor, here’s what I would appreciate:
My last piece of advice: get your charity’s staff more involved.
Over the years, I have had wonderful experiences working with donors and charities. Planned giving officers are some of my favorite people: you are professional, compassionate to your donors, and have a passion for your organizations and community. You are making an incredible difference every day.
My encouragement to you is to include your staff more in some of the professional relationships that you have. Even with the donors! My clients are giving to cause, a purpose, and not to a representative of a charity, and we want to know that if you were to leave your organization, the charity would continue.
Here’s a real-life example from a few years ago.
A client called me to proceed with her year-end stock donation to a University. I assembled the paperwork, called the University to get the transfer instructions, and sent off the paperwork. This was mid-December, so I was eyeing the computer to make sure it was complete. Hours passed, and finally, I heard the transfer was rejected. I called to University again to verify the information and tried again. It was rejected again. I had to call the planned giving department to verify the brokerage company they used, and I called the brokerage company myself to get the correct information. Turns out they had changed brokerage companies and never informed the staff. Let’s just say we started to encourage clients to use Donor Advised Funds for more efficiency. The details matter and the relationships matter.
This year, as you consider your existing and future donor relationships, I hope you’ll look further into your relationships with financial advisors and your staff. Our job is to help you make a masterpiece with the stories that come together, and we want to make it a legendary read.
About the author: Anna C. Nelson has 15 years of professional experience empowering clients to plan the future they want by helping to put all their financial pieces together. Anna is the founder of Mosaic Financial Solutions.