Discussions between advisors and high net worth (HNW) clients about philanthropy are on the rise, finds the U.S. Trust Study of the Philanthropic Conversation, as clients report advisors to be a valuable source of information, second only to their spouse or partner. However, the study reveals several disconnects between advisors and their clients. For instance, many advisors underestimate their clients’ desire to discuss philanthropy early in their advisory relationship and overestimate the importance of tax benefits as a motivation for giving.
To better understand advisors’ approach to and HNW individuals’ expectations of these discussions, U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, partnered with The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) on a nationwide survey of more than 300 advisors – including wealth advisors, trust and estate attorneys, accountants and other tax professionals – and a random sample of more than 100 HNW individuals with $3 million or more in investable assets who are actively engaged in charitable giving and who engage at least one of these advisor types.
“Charitable giving is an important dimension of an individual’s or family’s wealth experience, and the role of the advisor is correspondingly so,” said Ann Limberg, head of philanthropic solutions and family office at U.S. Trust. “Therefore, the better advisors are at addressing their clients’ philanthropic needs, the more likely they are to enhance their client relationships and grow their business.”
The 2018 survey responses were compared to results from the groups’ initial 2013 survey, and the study findings demonstrate improvement in the philanthropic conversation between advisors and clients, including:
“Clients rely heavily on their advisors for guidance with their giving. It is encouraging, therefore, to see more advisors recognizing the importance of philanthropy to their clients and a corresponding uptick in the number of philanthropic conversations taking place between clients and their advisors,” said Claire Costello, national philanthropic practice executive for U.S. Trust. “Advisors who approach these conversations in a meaningful way – focusing on personal goals and passions as well as the more technical aspects of giving – are more likely to satisfy their clients’ philanthropic needs while also growing their business.”
Advisors correctly gauge HNW clients’ top motivations for giving, namely: passion for a cause, impact on the community, and a desire to give back. However, they misperceive the importance of reducing taxes and enhancing the family name or business as motivations. In light of recent changes, the study explored the potential impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on giving levels and found that advisors overestimate its impact: only 7 percent of donors plan to decrease their giving, compared to 16 percent of advisors who anticipate a reduction from clients.
With respect to clients’ hesitations about giving, advisors miss the mark. Clients report barriers, such as lack of connection to nonprofit organizations and fear of gifts not being used wisely, while advisors perceive clients’ primary reasons for hesitating to be centered on issues of wealth preservation, including not having enough money for themselves or their heirs.
“The research results indicate that advisors’ understanding of their clients’ philanthropic needs is increasing. However, advisor misperceptions about clients’ motivations and barriers to giving persist. This may result in missed opportunities – for clients who may not be receiving the support they seek and for advisors who may be less able to deepen and retain client relationships,” said Ellen Remmer, a senior partner with TPI.
The survey found that HNW individuals who consult their advisors about their philanthropy are more structured in their giving. Advisor-client discussions about philanthropy can enhance the perceived value of the advisor. Two in five HNW individuals would be more likely to select an advisor who is knowledgeable about charitable giving, and 53 percent place more value on information from advisors who are philanthropic themselves. In addition, 59 percent of clients report wanting their advisor to refer them to another professional for complex philanthropic needs beyond their advisor’s capabilities.
Seventy-eight percent of advisors are experiencing the impact of philanthropic discussions with their clients on their bottom line. More specifically, having philanthropic conversations has helped advisors to:
While 54 percent of HNW individuals are somewhat satisfied with the philanthropic discussions with their advisors, only 45 percent are fully satisfied. The study identified several opportunities to improve the conversation, including:
The U.S. Trust Study of the Philanthropic Conversation was conducted in May 2018 by Phoenix Marketing International, an independent market research firm, on behalf of U.S. Trust and TPI. Key findings from this research are based on an online survey of a random sample of 314 advisors – including wealth advisors, trust and estate attorneys, accountants and other tax professionals – and a random sample of 103 HNW individuals with $3 million or more in investable assets who are actively engaged in charitable giving. All data was tested for statistical significance at the 95 percent confidence level.
U.S. Trust recognizes the importance of philanthropy to our clients. We are dedicated to the notion of purposeful wealth and to the prosperity of the nonprofit communities it supports. We put our strengths and resources behind every mission — be it a philanthropic individual or family or a nonprofit organization. We provide specialized advisory, administrative and investment solutions to both private philanthropic clients and nonprofit organizations that help transform their charitable goals into meaningful action. We tailor mission-focused solutions and offer ongoing advice and guidance through a close working relationship with a dedicated advisor, helping individuals and organizations turn missions into milestones.
The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) is a global philanthropic consulting practice that helps individuals, families, foundations, and corporations develop and execute customized strategies to increase the impact of their giving and achieve philanthropy that is more strategic, effective, and fulfilling. For nearly 30 years, TPI has served as consultant and thought partner to ambitious donors and funders who embrace innovative thinking in their efforts to find local, national, and global levers of change. TPI is committed to actively promoting and advancing strategic philanthropy by conducting cutting-edge research, publishing donor education resources, and training individuals, organizations, and advisors in best practices. In addition, TPI helps professional advisors build their capacity to meet the philanthropic needs of their clients by strengthening the internal culture of philanthropy within firms, and providing tools and resources to enable relationship managers and advisors to better support their clients and attract new clients.
Bank of America is one of the world’s leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 47 million consumer and small business relationships with approximately 4,400 retail financial centers, approximately 16,100 ATMs, and award-winning digital banking with approximately 36 million active users, including 25 million mobile users. Bank of America is a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 3 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations across the United States, its territories and more than 35 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
U.S. Trust operates through Bank of America, N.A., and other subsidiaries of Bank of America Corporation. Bank of America, N.A., Member FDIC.
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Julia Ehrenfeld, Bank of America