- Advisor to prospective client, eying the prospect's financial statement: "O my, there is enough money here for both of us for the rest of our lives."
- Question: "How do you make a small fortune?" Answer: "Start with a big one."
- Question: Same as 2. Answer: "Give our, I mean, your money away."
If donors are to give big, and impoverish their advisors they had better be leaders. The advisors may not hear a meek request to give away the advisor's fortune. Put the goals in writing, would be my advice, and get a second opinion as to whether the advisor managed to create an appropriately small fortune from your big one.
Generally, advisors are trained, incentivized, and managed to keep assets under management. Don't be fooled into considering a foundation, trust, or donor advised fund as pure charity. They don't impoverish the advisor who manages the money. They delay the positive social impact of the gift. The one thing that does impoverish the advisor and create current impact is an outright current gift. You can see why, I guess, so much philanthropic money is sequestered in donor advised funds, charitable remainder trusts, and foundations. You can also see why grant-making advice is lightly supported by advisory institutions. It is a bittersweet moment when the donor makes the world a better place by disbursing the foundation funds on which the advisor had planned to educate his children.
As a member of the advisory community, I am not telling tales out of school or pointing fingers. The win/win here is for donors to be clear about results wanted and to work with advisors who facilitate those results. Managing a small fortune is pretty lucrative, considering the alternative might be losing the entire account, or never getting it. But clients who go vague or passive with advisors who manage money will not get large current gifts as a default recommendation. Ask for what you want, in writing.
A note on the blame game: Blaming advisors for a less than optimal plan is a sign of immaturity. The donor must bring to the planning table the ideals, goals, vision, values, ends in view, and the overall sense of what counts as winning. Advisors will run their standard process, to achieve standard goals for the practice and the client, unless the client is clear that only a specific nontraditional outcome is acceptable. Given clear goal statements, particularly written ones, most advisors will work in good faith against the grain of their systems, and their compensation. But you as donor must lead.
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