The Giving Identity Crisis

Group of businesspeople hiding their faces behind question mark signs at officeEven the feelings about philanthropy shift by demographic.

By Randy Fox
Ez Charitable

While it may seem obvious when looking for planned gifts, who you’re talking to is really important. That is, the client’s age and their gender should help you craft your conversation for a number of reasons.

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Women are different than men in their giving and younger people are different than older people in how they approach their giving. It is important to create a different message depending on who you’re talking to about giving. Much has been written about how millennials are reshaping giving and, as advisors, we should be paying close attention to our approach to different populations.

Further, different gifts make sense at different ages. In fact, some younger donors may not even qualify to implement a charitable remainder trust (CRT) because the trust won’t qualify under the 10 percent remainder test. So, knowing your donor’s life stage is not the only important factor. Knowing how each gift works and what applies to whom is equally important.

Both Fidelity Charitable and U.S. Trust have conducted multiple surveys that help inform us as advisors. Fidelity finds that women tend to be more committed and strategic in their giving. They volunteer more time, ask more questions about the financial aspects of their gifts and generally feel that giving to charity is a very satisfying aspect of having wealth. Women tend to be more spontaneous; captured by a cause, a movement or an empathic response.

Parsing even further, millennials and boomers are different as well. More boomers are satisfied by their giving while millennials tend to want more. Why these reactions occur is unknown but observers of the industry see both millennial men and women wanting to see results and to measure impact. They desire hands-on experiences and involvement, sometimes even leading their own effort a la Zuckerberg/Chan of Facebook fame.

As the boomers age out of careers, many are finding fulfillment in giving back to their communities by volunteering. Also, now that their children are grown and out of the house, if that’s the case, they generally have more capacity to give. Advisors can use this period to begin to convert dormant assets into planned gifts and also to help increase community involvement by providing guidance in this area.

One of the key findings in the recent U.S. Trust study is that wealthy boomers want to give more but need help in discovering what they are passionate about. The best advisors know how to help their clients tap into their passion by asking better questions or through other creative processes.

While many of these observations likely hold true for other aspects of giving financial advice, it certainly is imperative for advisors to understand their clients’ aspirations and expectations when it comes to giving philanthropic advice. If philanthropy is truly one of America’s great freedoms, then it is incumbent on advisors to empower our clients to best enjoy that freedom. Knowing who they are and what their particular view of the world is will best help to tap into their desire to give. Knowing the best way for them to give based on who they are is equally important. We all have our work cut out for us.

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