Today is my birthday. It’s not one of those special ones with a zero but each one is worth celebrating – especially when I am grieving the loss of a very dear friend whom we buried just three days ago after a horrible battle with cancer.
Life and those who are important to us, and the issues which we care about deeply are at the core of who we are and what we do. Yet, often we are hesitant to explore our hearts and our values.
Even as I prepare my monthly newsletters, when I know that getting at the emotional side of philanthropy is what is critical, I often succumb to the pattern of referring to the technical aspects of philanthropy. Yes, the technical is important, but not quite as essential as emotions and desires. This is what really drives us.
When I meet with my terrific family enterprise advisor group, where our goal is to discuss and impart technical information that could help clients, we always start with a “check-in” and much of what we share relates to family and personal matters. We know those are a big part of how we deal with issues and revealing the personal brings us closer together as a team.
However, most often when advisors meet with clients, the focus of the conversation moves quickly to the technical. This is what we think clients expect of us and this is what they are used to. But just as in other parts of our lives, where we know the personal is a dominant factor, if advisors explore more deeply with their clients, they will discover the many layers to their issues and will provide more holistic counsel. Additionally, their relationships with their clients will be enhanced.
Asking clients about their feelings regarding their wealth will expose concerns they may have not voiced before. For example, if you include a question like: “How would you describe the blessings of your wealth?”, followed by the question “How would you describe any challenges with your wealth?”, you will learn much from your clients about the issues that they are grappling with. These questions may naturally evolve into questions about clients’ values, how their wealth may be used more broadly, and the causes that have been important to them. Consider some simple questions like the following:
- What is your first memory of helping others in your community?
- What people or causes have made an impact in your life and in the lives of those you love?
- What do you think are the major issues facing your community today?
- Whom in your family would you like to include in decisions about philanthropy?
- How would you like to be remembered? What would you like your legacy to be?
These questions will go a long way to increasing your understanding of your clients and to helping them to explore ways to positively use their wealth. And according to survey results of clients in Canada and the US, they will appreciate that YOU stepped out of the technical box and discussed their values, passions and interests.
Today as I celebrate my birthday, I am grateful for my blessings of wonderful family, friends and colleagues and also for the privilege of helping others to explore their blessings and assisting them to make the world a better place.
As a philanthropy advisor I work with families and individuals to create and facilitate a safe and productive environment to share their values, interests and goals. Together we develop and implement a plan to make their giving meaningful, satisfying and effective.