Ice Breakers: Three Easy Openers to Talk About Philanthropy

Many advisors really want to bring up charitable giving in client meetings, especially while updates to tax and estate plans are underway. Indeed, many advisors believe they have a responsibility to raise the issue. But how?

Addressing charitable giving priorities with clients does not need to be hard. In fact, the research shows that clients want to talk about their philanthropy with their trusted advisors, and are especially pleased when the advisor is the one to bring up the topic. The key is to be interested, relevant, and authentic. Here is a tip for each.


Show genuine interest.

Dale Carnegie’s maxim, “To be interesting, be interested,” is good advice for nearly every social or business encounter. Especially with charitable giving topics, showing interest is important because giving is very personal and emotional. When you are reviewing a client’s tax return, for example, ask about the charitable organizations the client supports. You’ll likely be amazed at the richness of the stories behind each gift.


Stay relevant.

Tax reform is on the minds of many clients. This gives you an opening to talk about potential changes to the tax rates and what might happen to capital gains treatment. Explore each client’s balance of charitable interests versus leaving inheritances to family members. Charitable clients will be glad to know you are up to date on lobbying efforts of nonprofit sector leaders. Indeed, many charitable clients serve on nonprofit boards whose members also would find this information useful. For example, in its April 16, 2021 letter to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, the Charitable Giving Coalition noted that the charitable deduction is “unique” and “promotes a selfless act, incentivizing taxpayers to give more funds to charities than they would otherwise give.”


Be authentic about COVID-19.

Nearly everyone has been affected by the pandemic in some way. It is estimated that one in three Americans have lost a loved one or someone they know to Covid-19. Sharing your own experiences and impressions of 2020 and early 2021 will encourage clients to open up. Charitable giving is a natural topic of this conversation. According to a study conducted by Candid, U.S. foundations, corporations, and individual donors stepped up by granting more than $10.7 billion as of early 2021 to address pandemic-related challenges. “There is no doubt that philanthropy has responded to COVID-19 on a scale not seen before,” note the study’s authors.

We’ve seen impactful giving locally as well. Generous community members supported COVID relief efforts with gifts of more than $7.3 Million to the COVID-19 Regional Response fund which, in turn, made over 260 grants to local non-profits providing COVID relief services. In addition, GCF donors increasing their overall giving from their donor advised funds by 37%, with more than $90 million in grants going to non-profits in 2020 from DAFs.

Inspiring statistics like these bring home the importance of charitable giving as part of a family’s overall financial and estate plan. Planned giving, too, is experiencing an uptick, as individuals face their own mortality, perhaps more clearly than ever before. This is the perfect time for clients to consider a legacy gift to their favorite charity as part of a refresh in their estate planning.

Please reach out to us here at Greater Cincinnati Foundation if we can be helpful as you have these conversations with clients.