Around the planning table four men sit planning the fifth man's money. They will take care of the man, his spouse, his business and his capital. They are not going to get into any mamby pamby touchy feely stuff. They are self respecting males; they don't do anything soft and squishy like making the world a better place. The wife is there too, but unseen and unheard. He (her husband) controls a net worth of, say, $10 million. She is given a philanthropic budget of $15,000 a year. With it she has learned over 20 years so much about the community, by being so active in it. When it comes to wisdom, she has it. Yet she sits silent, and sad, in this planning interview, her life and posterity reduced to documents that are dead to her.
Eight wealthy women, several of whom are married as it happens, sit together at a conference table at a brown bag lunch. The convenor is a planned giving person at a local nonprofit. The topic is how to make their voices and vision heard at the planning table. The advice is that they first articulate their vision of a better world for self, family and society, and then share with their husband, parnter or other decision maker. Then out of that conversation will come talking points for advisors. The woman mentioned in Scene 1 is speaking animatedly about her recent deadening experience. The group encourages her to rethink that scene and see how she might have contributed more and to better effect.
The wife and husband from Scene 1 are talking around their kitchen table about how much is enough for them, how much is enough for kids, what is their fair share of taxes, what role giving will play during their lives and what might go to nonprofits at death. The conversation is loving, two voices, in a duet, rising and falling until a shared vision is reached. He, when it comes to the language of love, defers to her wisdom. She, perhaps, when it comes to the langauge of finance and law defers to him. Her vision prevails. His strategies give it life. Or, will when they next meet with their advisors.
The convener of the bag lunch has helped each woman review (via a professional from the nonproft's board of advisors) her family's current documents versus the emerging vision. Lo and behold! Many a current plan fail to fulfil the inspired legacy vision. Many a family conversation will ensue.
The convener is surrounded by advisors at that same conference table. She is saying, "I am working with some of the wealthiest women in the city, and their husbands. They have found that their current plans are out of touch with their vision. They are currently shopping for new lead advisors. I have asked you here to see if you are interested in being considered, but also to see if you would be willing to meet with us to talk about how woman can best partner with advisors for inspired outcomes." In other words, the convener is suggesting that the advisors teach and be taught, that they learn new skills too.
The wife and her husband from Scene 1 are back with their advisory team. They have determined that they would like to leave at death little in taxes, some to children, and the bulk to nonprofits. They have also determined that they would enjoy this giving more if they do it during their lives rather than at death. The advisors have worked out how much the couple can give now, later, and at death.
Around the table for the brown bag lunch, the talk today is all about the new estate plan created by our couple from Scene 1, and about their current giving too. The woman who has had her plans redone announces a major gift to the convenor's organization, a major current gift, to be followed by more as a legacy at death. Her example inspires several other women at the table to do the same.
I am in conversation (in cahoots) with several women in Dallas about such inspired legacy lunches. I believe that what will result are better plans, happier families, and more abundant gifts. If elaborate estate and business and financial plans are gendered male (even when the advisors are women), maybe we can say that inspired philanthropy is gendered female (even when the giver is a loving husband). Whatever the gender aspects, we all need plans that embrace the moral health of children and the health of the world we leave behind. When women lead in those areas, men will follow, or should. If men insist that they are touchy feely too, so be it. But, my fellow males, let's call it something respectable, hard and dry, like social investing.