Ceris Gardner, a partner at Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP, is one of the UK’s leading experts on tax, estate planning and family governance, and charity and philanthropy. We ask her what kind of support she provides her clients around their giving, and what benefits this brings to her practice.
We typically help clients who are looking to start their giving and want to set up a structure. However in the past few years, we have started doing much more than simply advising on and implementing the most suitable structure for each client. We have more general discussions with the client about what causes they want to support, whether they want to be involved in their local community, what they want to achieve or how to involve their family. We have many clients, for instance, that want to give back to the country of their origin, often India or Africa, and help provide better educational opportunities. Last year we researched our clients and asked them, if fiven £2m to spend on charitable causes what would they do. 63% of our respondents said that they would like to see exactly how their money is being spent by getting as involved as possible. A substantial number (77%) said they would prefer to set up their own trust or foundation aligned with causes that they are passionate about. This tallies with our experience of philanthropy at work. At the same time, 68% of people said that they would prefer to be anonymous or very low profile, which we found quite surprising.
We have learnt that clients often want guidance on how to distribute the funds within their structure and we are in a great position to refer them to specialist advisors who can help them choose effective charities, support their local communities or undertake bespoke research on the issue they care about. So we do so much more than talking through the technicalities of the most tax-efficient and suitable structure.
The benefits of providing philanthropy support is mainly the much closer relationship we build with each client when discussing issues they really care about. Clients are more likely to stay with our firm, refer others and come back to us for further support if they gain our trust and good advice around their giving. Philanthropy really is an effective ‘relationship-builder’.
If I was giving advice to a lawyer with no prior experience in philanthropy who wanted to start supporting their clients’ giving, I would suggest that they take part in the wide range of events and activities that are available. For example, The Philanthropy Programme, a joint education initiative between Philanthropy Impact and STEP (Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners), offers a series of events covering the philanthropy spectrum from the advisors standpoint with good networking opportunities and Philanthropy Impact also offer a range of informative roundtables and seminars for advisors and charities in London, throughout the UK and in Europe. Both TPP and PI programmes are available to members and non-members and offer networking opportunities. STEP has Charity and Philanthropy Special Interest Groups which also offer informative talks and they run courses on providing philanthropy advice. The Institute of Philanthropy and NPC offer courses for philanthropists and the Charity Tax Group is another useful resource, providing specific tax information to charities of all sizes. I would also recommend practitioners read as widely on the subject as possible, and talk to those who are involved: I’ve found that people in the private client / philanthropy world are incredibly generous with their time!