Does Your Philanthropy Represent Who You Are?

                                                                                                                                                      Photo Credit: Emily Scott

                                                                                                                                                      Photo Credit: Emily Scott

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom” - Socrates

A few weeks ago, I attended the AiP conference (Advisors in Philanthropy) for business professionals engaged in various philanthropic advisory practices.  For two days, I was among others in the space in which I now live – helping people engage in philanthropy. I was surprised by two things: the research data that shows this conversation isn’t happening as much as clients want it to happen, and the many professionals who don’t know how to initiate the conversation, let alone have it in greater length.  Given that my work is all about the conversation and collaborating with exactly the type of professionals assembled in the room, I couldn’t give my card out fast enough.

Do any of the following key findings resonate with you?

The 2016 U.S.Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy key findings include:

  • In 2016 59% of the general US population donated to charity.

  • 91% of high net worth households donated to charity.

  • While 83% of wealthy donors plan to increase their giving, women, African Americans, and younger individuals are likely to give even more in the future.

  • 50% of wealthy individuals volunteered their time and talent to charitable organizations.

  • The number one challenge to charitable giving was “Identifying what I care about and deciding what to donate to.”

  • There is a high correlation between charitable giving and knowledge levels.

  • While there is a strong desire to engage next generations, few do (28%).

And my favorite statistics:  

34% of affluent individuals want to have THE VALUES conversations at the first meeting with you and 90% agree it should occur within the first several meetings.

In reality, according to a 2013 study by TPI/US, clients felt that advisors brought up the subject only 17% of the time.

Why my favorites?  This is exactly what ES-Power of And is all about.  Who are you and how does your philanthropy represent who you are.  It is not surprising that people give more when they are knowledgeable.  I would add that people would give even more if they tapped into what was personally important to them.

So, how does this conversation happen?

Start with the premise of “coming to the conversation curious.” As I often say, when you approach a conversation with complete openness, it allows for more information to flow.  

Asking high gain questions results in more feelings and thoughts to emerge.

Spend the time in dialog around values, principles, priorities, passions.  

What is heart based? What is intellectually interesting?  What in your life, your ancestry, your future generations are important to you? Do you have an affinity for certain areas of interest? Do you feel grateful to anything or anyone in particular?

What motivates you? What is your time horizon? How do you want to interact with others?

Notice something?  Not one of the above questions relates to “how much money do you want to give?” My premise is that until you spend the time learning about your passions, values, interests, etc., donating your treasure, time, and talent will not be fulfilling.  Given that being philanthropic is 100% choice – you don’t “have” to be charitable -  why have it be anything but meaningful to you?

I describe this as your personal Venn diagram. When you combine your values/principles, your passions, with data and information, the intersection of the three is your personal Venn diagram.  


My own work 14 years ago is an illustration.  My passions included seemingly disparate areas – disadvantaged youth, empowering women and girls, and animal welfare.  As I thought deeply about my values and principles, the concept of resilience emerged.  As I looked at my three passions, the common thread was the resiliency in each of these areas.  From there, I spent a great deal of time learning about the areas, understanding more of the problems, and how I could participate and/or make an impact.  

Take the journey to discover what is deep within you.  After your exploration, think about how you want to invest your time, treasure, and talent.  What is the best way for you to show up in the world?