Leveraging Relationships to Add Value to Donors’ Philanthropic Goals

Learn how advisors can create a win-win-win-win by teaming with planned giving professionals

By Adam Strominger

Key Takeaways:

  • The laws of reciprocity show that the more you help others, the more likely you are to receive help from those people in return.
  • At the end of the day, you shouldn’t worry about protecting AUM; you should focus on the long-term wishes of your clients—that will pay bigger dividends for you down the road.
  • Many of your clients will be transferring wealth to socially conscious millennial heirs in the coming years. How well are you prepared to engaged with NextGen?

As baby boomers reach retirement age, an estimated $15 trillion in wealth will be transferred over the next two decades, according to studies by U.S. Trust and other researchers. And guess what? More and more of that wealth is going to philanthropic causes, not necessarily into the accounts of your clients and their heirs.

If you’ve been thinking about adding a planned giving specialist to your network of experts, then you’re not alone.

As many advisors know, the term “donor centric” gets batted around quite a bit. What I’ve learned after years as a planned giving officer at Food for the Poor and other charitable organizations is that donor centric really means “What can I, the fundraiser, do to get the donor to feel special and potentially give more to the one charity I represent?”

If you visit as many people as I do, you know that donors generally support anywhere from two to 15 charities.

Here’s a slightly radical concept: Suppose you could get donors to share their overall philanthropic vision with you—a vision that includes other charities they support and why they support them. Would this take money away from your charity? Perhaps a small fraction in the short run, but it would help you create new and deeper levels of interaction with your clients and the next generation in their families—the socially conscious millennials.

Would this dynamic change the relationship with the donors? Absolutely! Donors would have a new level of trust in you because you are addressing their entire life and legacy goals. They’ll see that you represent their best interests and that a planned giving specialist or fundraising professional is not a “product salesperson” for a needy charitable organization. Instead, they may think of him or her as a philanthropic ambassador.

The one gift normally granted by the usual “ask” could be multiplied in time by truly listening and unselfishly supporting the donor’s total vision.

Take it a step further … suppose your client is creating a foundation that helps out other organizations. Would you be willing to introduce this person to another organization or potential funding source that isn’t tied to the organization you currently work with, if you think they do great work?

The laws of reciprocity show that the more you help others, the more likely you are to receive help back from those people.

Just as satisfied clients make referrals on your behalf, so will charities that understand that you’re not just another financial advisor trying to hold on to assets under management at all costs. This could have a domino effect on both philanthropy and your practice.

The $100,000 question

As planned giving and major gift professionals start to adopt a true donor-centric approach, you’ll see that it parallels how financial professionals view the whole picture of their client’s wishes, desires and possibly legacies. It’s all about providing sound planning decisions as a result of fact-finding and research.

Experienced planned giving professionals know that it’s their job to help donors realize their charitable potential and to assist donors with their giving and legacy plans. If properly trained, we follow a workflow process that’s similar to the holistic approach honed by elite financial advisors with an emphasis on the heart of the donor. While charities focus primarily on getting cash gifts from donors, good planned giving professionals know that the majority of a HNW individual’s wealth is often tied up in their businesses, real estate holdings or securities, etc. We’ll talk more about leveraging those alternative assets for philanthropy next time.


At the end of the day, I am comfortable in my role as a facilitator of gifts, but you don’t need binoculars to see the new horizon. As more and more advisors and planned giving officers see the value of working together, you’ll see that the charity doesn’t own the donor, just as a wealth advisor doesn’t own the investor. A mutually aligned team approach involving advisors and planned giving officers creates a win-win-win-win for the donor, the charity, the giving officer and the wealth advisor.

Contact me anytime if you have a giving question on behalf of a client (or yourself). For more information about Food for the Poor, please see our annual report.

About the Author

Adam Strominger is a planned giving officer at Food for the Poor, the largest international relief charitable organization in the United States. Formerly, he served as business development director for the Planned Giving Design Center, a major content provider of charitable gift planning. Over the years Adam has collaborated with many of the industry’s thought leaders, leading associations, financial service companies and advisory firms.