Enhance Your Client Relationships:
Assist the Family with Charitable Planning

Professional advisors who do philanthropic planning with clients know that this service offering enhances their business model by deepening the client relationship. Going beyond taxes and investments to discuss charitable interests and personal legacy can deepen client relationships and show you care that they realize their life goals. For some clients, creating a plan might only take one conversation. So, we’re not talking about adding hours to your work week.

Ready to expand your client conversations to the charitable realm? Then read on to learn why clients need a plan and the keys for you to assist them.

First and foremost, we’re not talking merely about treasure, but also about time and talents. We’re also not just planning with high-net-worth clients. Many American Heart Association donors are hardworking, live frugally and perhaps had a hand-up during their lives or benefitted from research funded by other philanthropists. They want to give back.

Why is a charitable plan important to clients?

People who give, whether to a charity or friends in need, generally do so in response to requests. Having a plan helps people pursue more organized, purposeful giving that achieves the desired impact — on the recipients (person, charity or cause) and on the donors’ financial/tax situation. A plan also gives clients clarity to say no to requests that don’t align with their goals. In essence, the philanthropic experience becomes more fulfilling and enjoyable.

Who is involved in a charitable plan? 
Charitably minded clients who have not yet involved loved ones in their giving might find this the perfect opportunity to do so. They can share how their passion fuels them to give. Often, they want to promote family philanthropy, which helps instill their values in younger generations. Gathering kids and grandkids (or nieces and nephews) to discuss each person’s charitable interests offers a unique project to rally around, engaging outside of typical family roles. If you’re facilitating the conversation, you can connect with the children in a meaningful way, perhaps building trust and relationships with generations of potential clients.

What are the elements of a charitable plan?
Every charitable plan is as unique as the client. It reflects their dreams to improve the community/world. The plan also contains pragmatic details that guide the philanthropic actions of the client in coordination with their professional advisors. Elements in a charitable plan generally include:

  • When to give – At certain time(s) of the year, or within specific years to bunch donations and itemize tax deductions? Give during life or after they pass?
  • Where to give – Are they supporting specific organizations such as the American Heart Association or causes such as preventing hunger? Will they give to individuals, crowdfunding web pages or only to qualified charities?
  • What to give – Cash/Check/Credit card aren’t tax-wise options for donations to charities, yet it’s what most clients routinely do. In addition to appreciated securities and Qualified Charitable Distributions, the AHA accepts illiquid assets and its streamlined program accepts most types of real estate. What assets make the most sense for your client to gift versus keep or pass on to loved ones?
  • How to give – What gift vehicles will they use? Do they want lifetime income back in exchange for the gift from a Charitable Remainder Trust or a Charitable Gift Annuity? Would a Donor Advised Fund or a family foundation work best based on time, administration tolerance and the charitable dollars available? (Request the AHA’s Impact Booklet(link opens in new window) for layperson descriptions of giving vehicles.)
  • Level of involvement with recipients – Do they want to join a board? How much hands-on activities interest them? Possibly volunteer?
  • Recognition for gifts – Do they want to give publicly or anonymously?
  • Assess the impact – How will they know that the gift is making the impact they intended? How often will they assess impact and make changes to the plan as needed?

How do you get to the heart of a charitable plan?
Practical factors aside, you can facilitate development of a plan by guiding the client/family through a series of thought-provoking questions. Answers to the questions below inform the heart of the giving plan — the intentions behind their generosity.

Your Passions and Values

  • Who or what inspires you to want to give back? Do you have role models?
  • Early experiences such as volunteering have a powerful impact on philanthropic interests later in life. What were your first encounters with giving? 
  • What difference does/would charitable giving make to you and your life?
  • What impact do you want to make with your giving?
  • If you currently give, how did you choose the people/charities/causes? Do you feel like you’re making an impact? Why or why not?
  • What gift to date has fulfilled you the most? What was the difference between that gift and others?

Your Giving Interests

  • You can give different types of gifts: your time; skills and abilities; and financial assets including cash and property. What types of gifts interest you?
  • Consider writing a list including the type of gift, the person/charity/cause you would give it to, and the time frame (for example, give it now, after retirement or after you pass away).
  • Do you want to focus on certain people/charities/causes?
  • Do you have certain characteristics or requirements for the people/charities/causes you support?
  • Do you want to involve other people/family in your giving?

Your Legacy

  • If you would rather not gift assets now, would you consider gifting after you pass?
  • How do you want to be remembered? What difference do you want to make in the community/world?
  • Are there any family values/traditions/contributions that are important for you to continue?
  • Do you want to honor or remember someone with your contributions?

No matter your level of involvement in developing your clients’ charitable plans, the giving/legacy aspect of their lives is another path for you to walk alongside them. Including their loved ones in the conversation allows you to expand your family relationships and build trust on a new level. As you’re doing this important work, remember that the American Heart Association has dedicated staff and resources available to assist you in serving your clients. Contact us to receive our Impact Booklet brochure and for assistance.(link opens in new window)

    About the Author: 

    Lauren Photo

    Lauren Iwema, CAP®(link opens in new window)

    Senior Advisor, Charitable Estate Planning
    American Heart Association
    [email protected]

    “I work with supporters and their advisors to develop personalized solutions for tax and charitable planning needs.”

    Lauren Iwema has worked with the American Heart Association since 2005 and has eight years of experience in charitable estate planning and complex gift planning. She was inspired to join the organization during her 2-month-old niece Maggie’s struggle with a heart muscle disease called cardiomyopathy. Seventeen years later, she’s as passionate about the AHA’s lifesaving mission as Maggie is for reading.