A good conversation about philanthropy can turn a client's one-time gift into a lasting legacy.
Some of your clients may be unaware that there is much more to charitable giving than writing cheque, says Maureen Glenn, manager of tax and estate planning with Richardson GMP Ltd. in Toronto. "You can create a more structured approach," she says, "that will be more lasting and beneficial for the charity over the long term."
You can help clients develop a philanthropic plan that best suits their values and goals by following these tips:
> Discover clients' passions and interests
Learn the motivations behind your clients' interest in charity by looking past the numbers and tax strategies.
"It's critical that the advisor has some knowledge of clients outside of just their investments," says Glenn. "Talk to clients about what their passions are, what they like to do or if they're volunteering for anything specific."
> Draft a plan
Just as you develop an estate plan with a client, says Jo-Anne Ryan, vice president, philanthropic advisory services, with TD Waterhouse and executive director of the Private Giving Foundation in Toronto, you should create a philanthropic plan.
Once you know the client's values and what's important to him or her, Ryan says, you can start matching charitable causes to those interests. Don't forget to discuss whether there's a specific geographical area within which the client would prefer to donate — whether it's local, provincial, national or global.
> Research the charities
Before the client starts writing cheques, make sure you do some due diligence on the selected charities.
Start by visiting Canada Revenue Agency's website (www.cra-arc.gc.ca), Ryan says, which lists all registered charities. It also shows the financial details of charities and the portion of donations that goes toward administration costs.
You and the client can also visit sites such as Charity Village (www.charityvillage.ca) and ServiceSpace (www.servicespace.org) which offer detailed information about various charities.
As well, be sure contact the charities directly to find out more about their programs and what the client's donation can do for that cause.
> Get the family involved
Widen the discussion on philanthropy by urging the client to discuss philanthropy with his or her spouse, children and other family members.
Work with the client's family to create a family mission statement, says Glenn, which will articulate the family's philanthropic goals.
When family members become involved, Glenn says, the client's children become the successors to his or her legacy, which can keep fulfilling the client's charitable goals for years.
> Make charitable giving a regular topic of conversation
Charitable giving should not be a topic that is addressed just once and then forgotten. Discussing philanthropy on a regular basis can help you and your client develop and maintain the most appropriate philanthropic plan toward meeting his or her goals.
Watch for the triggers in a client's life that can lead to a discussion about charity, Glenn says, such as creating or revising an estate plan. If you are not constantly in touch with your clients, you might miss an opportunity to start a new philanthropic plan or update an existing one.
This is the final installment in a three-part series on discussing philanthropy with clients.