• Stein Strategies LLC

Wealth management clients want the philanthropic conversation, but are they getting it?

This summer I’ve been undertaking the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®) accreditation and the first course presented some very interesting information on the relationship between wealth managers and their clients - all of which reinforced my own experience working with donors as a fundraiser.

I’ve worked with hundreds of donors as planned giving and major gift officer and not surprisingly, the majority of donors had come to my table after first consulting with their wealth manager. This always made sense, in that they have existing relationships with their advisors and trust them – so if they were considering a substantial philanthropic gift, best to start asking questions with advisors whom they trust.

Unfortunately, the majority of advisors were unable to help focus their client’s philanthropic goals or provide direction as to which organizations would benefit from their impact (often suggesting the local community foundation or their estate planning attorney as resources). This left many donors unmoored, with little direction as to where to start and little to no understanding of how nonprofit funding works, how to appropriately restrict gifts, how to discern from a well-run and trustworthy organization from one that isn’t accomplishing impact, or even having basic information on the charitable giving tools at their disposal to accomplish big goals.

On top of that, almost every planned giving illustration I provided a client was the first time they had heard of the charitable giving tool proposed.

All of that was anecdotal of course, until I saw the 2016 and 2018 US Trust Study of the Philanthropic Conversation: Understanding Advisor Approaches and Client Expectations.

These studies are a plethora of interesting data points and I highly recommend reading them in their entirety. That being said, here are some data points that really stuck out to me:

· 94% of clients want to be more knowledgeable about at least charitable giving

· 71% of clients say discussing philanthropy with their advisor is important

· 80% of advisors say they discussed philanthropy with their clients

o Only 67% of clients said the same

· 39% of advisors say they initiate the philanthropic conversation,

o Only 6% of clients say their advisors do

· 18% of advisors say their clients bring up the philanthropic conversation

o 61% of clients say they do

· 59% of clients want their advisor to refer them to other professionals if their needs exceed the advisor’s knowledge.

Top 5 things clients say they want out of the philanthropic conversation with their advisor:

· 67% of clients say identifying what they care most about and where to give

· 50% say understanding how much more I can afford to give

· 45% say allocating time to volunteering and getting to know the nonprofit

· 37% say monitoring giving or impact

· 23% say structuring for tax efficiency

Interestingly, tax efficiently came up dead last. Yet, that is generally the focus for wealth managers when talking to their clients about philanthropy with 63% of clients saying the philanthropic conversation is mostly focused on technical topics.

Perhaps most important:

45% of clients were “very satisfied” with their philanthropic discussion with their advisors.

Another interesting data point - here are the top 3 reasons advisors say their clients don’t give more and the top 3 reasons clients say they don’t give more to charity.


Don’t feel connected to charity

Gift may not be used wise

Will be solicited more often


Clients don’t feel they have enough for themselves

Don’t feel they have enough for heirs

Don’t feel wealthy enough

These statistics show a quite a discrepancy between the assumptions advisors have about their clients and what clients say they actually care about in addition to large discrepancies between how advisors see how the philanthropic conversation unfolds and how clients see it.

I don’t bring this up to disparage wealth management professionals, they do good work for their clients! Yet, philanthropic passion articulation, philanthropic goal setting, nonprofit funding operations, and nonprofit research is generally out of their realm.

I submit that when philanthropy is not brought up in the initial discovery conversation and philanthropic expertise is not housed within the firm, both the client and the wealth manager are done a disservice. Clients want the topic brought up, they want a holistic conversation around philanthropy, and if done - the relationship deepens.

I’ll use this opportunity to plug Stein Strategies as it offers just that service for wealth managers. I partner with wealth management firms to help their clients identify their philanthropic passions and goals, choose the right organizations, and identify the assets that could be used to accomplish identified goals.

To learn more about how I can help deepen the relationship with the client and provide the expertise clients are looking for, please visit or email me at

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