Giving Compass’ Take:
• This guide from Fidelity Charitable can help donors navigate their relationships with philanthropic advisors.
• What could a philanthropic advisor do for your philanthropy? Is it worth bringing the expertise you need in-house?
• Learn more about choosing philanthropic advisors.
What should a donor consider before working with a philanthropic advisor?
In the right circumstances, a philanthropic advisor’s expertise can elevate a donor’s charitable giving. Here are a few important elements that donors should consider as they think about hiring a philanthropic advisor to make sure they make the most of the relationship.
- Level of openness and receptivity to help: As with any consultant who assists individuals with their goals, a philanthropic advisor can be a powerful partner—but only if donors are receptive to advice and make themselves available to their advisor. Willing discussion is critical in working together to plan and achieve charitable aims.
- Role for other family members and advisors: That essential ingredient in the advisor-donor relationship—a willingness to accept help—extends to other individuals involved in a donor’s decision making around giving. In many situations, the work will be most effective if family members and additional professional advisors engaged by a donor, such as financial planners, are supportive of the effort and available to participate in the process as appropriate.
- Priority areas and needs: There are several approaches to working with a philanthropic advisor and several ways an advisor can help. To make the most of the investment of time and resources with an advisor, donors should be clear on the nature of their needs and their priorities and structure the engagement accordingly
- Short-term: Many individuals engage a philanthropic advisor for a single, limited project, such as to define a giving plan or to prepare for a family transition that will alter giving roles. An advisor serves as a short-term consultant in these scenarios to assist with a temporary need.
- Long-term: Some donors require a philanthropic advisor’s assistance for an extended amount of time, such as to support the management and execution of a long-term giving plan that requires consistent assessment and attention. In this case, the advisor may serve as an alternative to hiring staff to support one’s philanthropy.
- Occasional: Dedicated givers who have ongoing but undefined needs may engage advisors to provide occasional counsel. These advisors can serve as a sounding board when working through questions related to specific gifts, family dynamics or other challenges that arise.
Simply put, philanthropic advisors are individuals or teams hired by a donor or family to navigate the how, what, and why of giving and to improve charitable outcomes. They can also help guide interested donors through social impact investing and how it may contribute to their philanthropic goals. But a good philanthropic advisor can be much more to a donor or family than this short definition suggests.