Asking the question

When would be the best time to raise philanthropy with my client?

Good moments are when clients are thinking about major financial decisions, such as:

  • A change in tax rates, as the UK Government has set out in Budget 2009
  • Estate planning
  • Writing or revising a will
  • Planning for retirement
  • A liquidity event, such as an inheritance, property sale, or sale of a business
  • Considering a change in their circumstances, such as taking a company public, transferring a business to sons or daughters or realising that they can’t pass on all of their retirement fund

As US President Clinton has said: “There’s so much to be done, down the street and around the world. It’s never too late or too early to start.

What to say
I would like to raise philanthropy with my client, but what do I say?

You can just ask the basic giving question: “Are there any charitable interests you would like to support?” or “Have you supported charities in the past?

Or you can prepare the ground. Before a meeting, send a list of issues you want to discuss and include the giving question. This allows clients to consider the idea ahead of time and ensures that the question is not overlooked.

If you are talking about giving during your client’s lifetime, you might ask:

  • What role has philanthropy played in your family? What role would you like it to play? What value would it be to your children and grandchildren?
  • Do you want to involve your family or your friends in your giving? If so, in what way? How involved should they be? What do you (not) want to happen?
  • Warren Buffett said, “Parents should leave children enough money so they would feel they could do anything but not so much that they could do nothing.” Is that something you can identify with?
  • If you are talking about your client’s retirement, when clients may worry about having enough for a secure future, you might say:
  • If you’re interested, perhaps we could try making your money work well for you while also helping charities that matter to you?

If you are talking about your client’s will, you might ask one or two of the following questions:

  • have you thought of leaving something in your will for charity?
  • Are you giving to charity now and would you like this to continue after your death?
  • Do you think your family shares your personal values? What are these? Have you discussed them together?
  • Do you wish to pass your values on? Could philanthropy be a good way of doing this?
  • How do you think your children would react if you left something to charity?
  • It’s not a happy thought, but have you thought what you would like to happen to your assets if your spouse or children do not survive you? Would you like to help a charity?
How to help

If my client shows interest, what sort of questions should I then ask? How can I help identify what sort of giving my clients want to do?

Philanthropy UK’s Guide to Giving, with its Five Stages framework, has been developed to guide advisors through a step-by-step process to help clients create a charitable giving strategy.

There is no 'right' strategy or 'right' giving portfolio – it is a question of what matters to your client, who they would like to involve and how they would like to organise the decision-making process.

Of course, clients may wish to undertake one or more of these steps by themselves. However, many find it helpful to do so together with their advisor.

You can help stimulate their thinking; connect them with similarly philanthropic clients; undertake research where they cannot spare the time themselves; act as an intermediary with charities and other potential recipients; present them with tax-efficient options; signpost them to specialist philanthropy advisors and generally move the process along.

Click here to see the Five Stages of Giving framework


What happens if they ask me questions I can't answer?

That is less likely to be the case if you have a look at other sections of this site. But there is nothing wrong with saying you’ll get back to them – as long as you then do so with well-researched advice. Fortunately, there is a growing range of specialty philanthropy services to help – including the Guide to Giving framework and Organisations, the comprehensive guide to the wide range of charitable services and products for UK donors.