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GUEST ARTICLE: Reaching Out To The Next Generation - Why Philanthropy Matters

Susan Winer, March 29, 2017


Philanthropy can be a bridge to the next generation in terms of communication among families, the author of this article, a noted expert in the field, argues.

The author of this item is Susan Winer, chief operating officer and founder of Strategic Philanthropy, a firm headquartered in Chicago. Susan is a regular commentator for Family Wealth Report (see a previous article of hers here.) Her firm works solely with high net worth and ultra-high net worth donors, and was established in 2000. In a series of articles, she is setting out some of the most important issues in philanthropy and financial advice, not just for those in North America, but around the world. The editors of this news service are delighted to share these insights and we hope they stimulate debate; readers who want to send in commentary and feedback should contact the editor at tom.burroughes@wealthbriefing.com

Last month I wrote an article about advisors not always talking to the right decision maker. I noted that women were an often overlooked and under estimated market for legal and financial advisors. This is not because advisors do not recognize that women have significant say about and often have sole control of, substantial wealth. It is often because many do not know how to advance the conversation successfully with this population.

This same dilemma and challenge is in place for advisors relative to retaining or attracting the next generation of their clients. There have been any number of studies and surveys conducted, the findings have been relatively consistent, and all say very much the same thing:

-- In a survey of 1,000-plus investors conducted by MFS Investment Management in 2013, 75 per cent of clients said their children had never even met their Financial Advisors.
-- Fidelity Charitable, as well as the Institute for Preparing Heirs, say that 90 per cent to 95 per cent of offspring leave their parents’ advisors upon receiving their inheritance.
-- Millennials increasingly consult peers and media before acting on advisor recommendations; fewer than 10 per cent of investment decisions are made alone. At the same time, word-of-mouth and personal recommendations significantly influence the buying decisions of about 50 per cent of millennials including advisors (Deloitte’s 2015 Millennial Wealth Management Trends Study).

With an aging demographic and a changing wealth landscape, advisors need to build client relationships across generations within a family, or directly with a younger population of wealth holders if they are to protect the legacy of their practice (and revenue streams). How to do this however, is often a challenge.

Gen X and Gen Y (and the still evolving Generation Z) are different from one and other in many ways and yet there are certain similarities. These generations are hardwired to the internet and social media and are very much aware of the issues and needs that plague world communities.

They are motivated by wanting to see problems addressed now; climate change, poverty, human rights abuses, etc., are important. They are living their values and putting their time and money where their heart is more often than their parents did or do. They also are willing to share what they care most deeply about and they want to be included in the conversation but only if they are heard.

If advisors take their cue from this reality and initiate a deeper conversation based on values and philanthropic interests, they can open a dialogue across generations that will not only be meaningful but also serve to deepen relationships with current and potential clients.

Philanthropy is not just a “good” thing to engage in, it also provides a platform for establishing common ground and a means for perpetuating values. It is both a landscape that tolerates and encourages different perspectives and a context for deepening financial and business skills for younger people.

Since our firm was founded in 2000, we have observed numerous ways in which philanthropy has been transformed and transformative:

-- Donor Advised Funds are being created at a rate almost three times that of private foundations.
-- The popularity of investing in social enterprises that integrates social good with financial return and aligning investment portfolios with social or personal missions for double bottom line returns.
-- Impact Donor Advised Funds such as Impact Assets and Triskeles Foundation respond to the interests of donors who want to explore innovative ways to use their charitable dollars.
-- The globalization of giving.
-- The growing number of publically held, private and family owned companies that have incorporated philanthropy as part of their business and marketing plans.
-- A heightened interest in economic and environmental sustainability and a deepening commitment to human and civil rights, globally and domestically.
--The creation of travel companies offering trips that  are opportunities to volunteer in communities and countries around the world for singles and families.

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