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August 30, 2007


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Sean Stannard-Stockton

Gayle Roberts talks about fundraising as a way to help donors express their values, rather than trying to get them to write you a check. In fact, she'll be on the WXEL Fundraising Success radio program talking about just this issue next week.

When you say that advisors say, "We don't impose our values on clients; we don't do the touchy-feely; we do tactics, not vision." I think you are mostly right. But good advisors realize that finance is not practiced in a vacuum. Advisors do have to get "touchy feely". I don't think their job is to impose their own values, but it is their job to talk with a client help them understand their finances and how they can help them express their vision. And they have to listen a lot. A good listener can help someone find their own vision, without imposing the listener's own values.

The disadvantage for the fundraiser to play the role you're talking about is that they are incentivised to help the donor express their vision through funding their nonprofit. The disadvantage for the advisor is that are incentivised to encourage the donor to give their money away as slowly as possible (to keep assets under management under the advisors control).

There has got to be someone who doesn't have a vested interest in the outcome who can advise donors.


There are a few. The Philanthropic Initiative is one. IFF Advisors is another. Jeff Grossberg is putting to together a network of independent advisors to do this kind of work. Life Coaches have been proposed. My sense is that this is a role, more than a job. It is a role that can be played by any number of people. Even though everyone does have a conflict of interest, some of us do rise above that in practice. Clients often seem grateful that someone has taken a moment to step out of his or her official role and open a human to human conversation. I will sometimes say, "Maybe we should step out from this office building in to the park next door and just talk..."


Gayle and I do write each other about these things. We do each of us what we can given our respective seats at the table.

Much Ado About Nothing

What has the role of money been in your life ? Purpose in itself, or enabler of your talents and values ?

Many who give say that they want to "give back", because something or someone has helped them, whether it is the freedom of their society, or the connections to which they have been introduced or stumble upon. Few, if really pressed, believe hey gave done it all on their own.

So, what has your role been in your life as it unfolds ?

In considering that, what does it mean to you that you are one of billions of people ? What do you want to "give back" to and perhaps more importantly why, if you do indeed want to ?

Have you betrayed who you really are or helped who you are come into being, during the priocess of building your wealth ?

What would your worst enemy or most better rival say about you, if she or he were to speak at your funeral ? Would she or he respect you, hold up your integrity even whilst ridiculing your objectives, or would she or he damn you to hell uncategorically ?

How much do you really care what happens to your childrens' grandchildren, who may see things very differently than do you and almost certainly will face a much tougher and more complex local environment and world ?

If I were rich and wanted to give money, those are the kinds of questions .. tough questions ... that would make me feel like I had a real coach and adviser. But that's just me ?


I was wondering who wrote those words, Much Ado, was it your yourself? Those are very much the right questions at the right depth. They are not a sequence that a financial advisor, tax advisor, or fundraiser would usually attempt. High risk. And also unpredictable in outcome. Who knows what the "client," the publican or sinner, would say. And if we can't predict what the client will say, how can we be ready to answer his objections and move forward with the sales process?

Much Ado About Nothing

Yes, it was me. Just free-form, thinking out loud.

Much Ado About Nothing

I also think that they (those questions) can be better formulated, and asked in a manner that clearly conveys no judgment, just thorough professional curiosity about what and why someone wants to give.


What the person wants to be, do, enact, witness, achieve, give, catalyze, lead, live, leave behind.

Metanoia is a Greek work meaning "mind shift," or shift of paradigm, as we would now call it. The word is translated in the King James Bible as "repentence."

Most questions operate within "the light of common day," as Wordsworth called it. Deeper questions open vistas, vertiginous cliffs, and daunting heights. If the mind is ready to shift, to repent of the old ways, and to begin again, the right question can elicit the change.

Clients who come to advisors to discuss their final plan, their death time plan, their estate and legacy plan, may be particularly more likely than most to be asking in their own minds these ultimate questions. Unfortunately, the questions they are asked by their advisors are usually strictly factual or prosaic. "Do you want to include a Durable Power of Attorney with your Last Will and Testament? A Medical Power of Attorney? Do you have property owned out of state? Is it held in joint tenants or tenents by the entirity?" Instead, someone might ask, "What will live on in what you have been or done? What would you like to pass on? Beyond money and property?" The Greeks had a saying, "Call no man happy until he is dead." What will it take for you to die happy?

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