Opportunity Under Your Nose

Two volunteers serving meals at a shelterSurvey results show they want to be asked and guided about their passions.

By Randy Fox
Ez Charitable

One of the many ways to explore the charitable leanings of a client is to find out what they care about in the world.

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An easy entry into the conversation is to ask where they volunteer their time. True that parents often volunteer to coach their kids’ teams or serve on the PTA at their schools but above and beyond that, there is likely to emerge a pattern of giving time that will lead to a larger pattern of giving money and can open the conversation about more substantial gifts.

In their recent survey of high net worth (HNW) donors, U.S. Trust determined that 75.1 percent of the HNW volunteered and of those who volunteered, 34.3 percent volunteered more than 200 hours per year. Simple math makes that four hours per week, probably one good shift of hands-on work each and every week of the year. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist planner to think about asking questions about volunteer activities and the source of the passion about the cause and the potential of leaving a large planned gift to the cause that they are supporting with their time and talents.

Charities have known for a long time and, a number of studies bear out, that people tend to give more where they volunteer. What is often overlooked is that those who make planned gifts tend to volunteer more and give more current gifts as well. If you think about it for a minute, it makes perfect sense. After all, if you intend to make a large gift at your death or sometime in the future, you are going to want the organization to be in existence and to be fulfilling its mission capably at the time it receives the gift. In order for that to happen, volunteering time to provide guidance and to observe how the mission is being carried out is a logical progression in the giving process.

Advisors interested in charitable giving and planned giving should consider doing their own volunteer work. Not for the purpose of prospecting, of course. But for the purpose of understanding what it’s like to be involved at some level of the giving experience. Not only will it help you to speak the language, it will help you to feel the feeling of supporting some cause that you believe in. Unearthing your own passions about giving will certainly enable you to understand and communicate with your clients at a deeper, more meaningful level.

One of the major disconnects in the U.S. Trust survey on philanthropy was that donors (clients) felt that their advisor didn’t bring up the subject often enough, soon enough or in anything other than the description of a tactic or tactics. What donors really want, according to the survey, is for their advisor to help them discover their passionate causes.

Leading donors through a volunteering discussion, sharing your own experiences or discussing theirs will provide access to new conversations and a greater depth of understanding of who your client is and what they care about. After that, the tactical part is easy.

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