"What Do You Do?" 5 Things to Know About Philanthropic Advisors

When I meet people for the first time and they ask what I do, I get a thrill in the telling. They often have their own vague ideas, but after hearing my answer, I invariably hear “Wow, you have an amazing job!” Oh yeah. I absolutely do.

This blog about what I do as a philanthropic advisor and why working with someone like me can be, dare I say, not only incredibly rewarding, but also fun. This post is written for major donors, of course, but also for financial advisors, trust and estate attorneys, tax specialists, and any professional working with charitably-minded, high-net-worth individuals who may be “stuck” when it comes to their giving.

Before I dive headlong into the details of the work, I will first answer a basic question: “What exactly IS a philanthropic advisor?” Well, we are those professional advisors you hire to help guide the charitable aspects of your life. We are thought partners to individuals, couples, families and estates who want to become more intentional and impact-focused with their giving. We advise on appropriate giving vehicles, help you discover both empirically and emotionally what you care most deeply about, and help you understand your impact. But that’s just the tip of iceberg. We do so much more.

Some philanthropic advisors specialize in issue areas (international giving, women and girls, etc.) or specific types of philanthropy (effective altruismsocial justicecollective giving). Others specialize in different types of clientele (women, international families, the mega-wealthy, novices, companies small and large, etc.). Regardless, all are dedicated to making giving more meaningful and productive for the donor as well as the beneficiary.

And now, here are five things to know about what I (and Philanthropic Advisors in general) do:

1.   We know the field. The world of philanthropy is incredibly diverse and complex. Philanthropic Advisors are knowledgeable about giving vehicles, strategies, and opportunities that can make giving to charity joyful and meaningful. We are here to answer questions: Should you establish a Donor Advised Fund, a foundation, or both? Can you donate land, art, or real estate to fund your giving? To whom shall your gift be given, when, and under what terms? We are skilled at working with financial advisors and attorneys to help you sort out the best options available so that you make the wisest possible decision to meet your charitable goals.

2.   We know the issues. Philanthropic Advisors stay on top of the issues to help advise their clients on best practices in the field of giving. We are polymaths. We are able to take deep dives with you into your issue area, help you discern the best organizations with whom to engage and how, and even make strategic introductions to help you develop your own learning community. And when we don’t have the answer, we have deep and wide connections to professionals who do. 

3.   We help you get at the “Why”. When you’re ready to get more intentional with your giving, and maybe increase the size of your gifts, it’s no longer enough to just “write a check”, giving on the fly. At some point, it becomes necessary to become more strategic in affecting positive change. We ask deep and meaningful questions to help you discern the “why” of your giving. At Phila Engaged Giving, after an in-depth Discovery Period, you will receive a comprehensive Wealth and Giving Planthat outlines your mission, vision and values; a giving budget, and the specific methods you will employ to achieve your goals.

4.   We facilitate the tough conversations. Are your family members aware of their potential inheritance, or how to manage it? Is your multi-generational family all on the same page about who you’re giving to and why? For some, these can be touchy topics, but Philanthropic Advisors are skilled at facilitating these conversations with grace and knowledge. We can help your family grow closer by planning and reflecting on values and interests that lead to intentional decisions as philanthropists. 

5.   We help you stay focused. We all have busy lives juggling work, family, school, and so much more. We know you care about the non-profits you are committed to and want to do more with your giving, but let’s face it. That noble goal is pretty easily lost in the hustle that is our daily grind. Philanthropic Advisors are here to remind you of important deadlines, opportunities, optimal times to give. We keep our eye on the ball so you don’t have to.

You likely have already hired lawyers, an accountant, and financial advisors (if you haven’t, call me) and those relationships are fairly well-understood. However, as philanthropy is getting ever more attention with the looming great wealth transfer, philanthropic advisors, like Phila Engaged Giving, are becoming necessary to understand the connection between money and meaning. If you are charitably-minded and are able to donate a sizeable amount each year ($100,000 or more), you should consider adding a strategic Philanthropic Advisor to your team. Doing so will help you reach the next level of charitable giving and expose you to a new world of meaningful opportunities.