If we say that philanthropy is gendered female, and that self-respecting male or male-identified advisors "don't do touch feely," we can better understand why philanthropic estate planning limps along with tax driven strategies and so little passion, virtue, or wisdom.
Recently with several strong women I have been embroiled in a heated conversation about the role of the wealth coach in the legacy planning process. Why do we need such a life coach, I asked, who calls himself or herself a wealth coach, when the client already has a trusted advisor? How can anyone bill himself or herself as a wealth coach if he or she has no credentials in tax, legal, and financial fields? Why do wealth coaches sit around commiserating with clients when they should be calling the advisors, closing open loops, and forming a good team? Then it became apparent what is really happening. In most planning situations for a married couple or for intergenerational families, the decision makers are male. The mother or daughter are not necessarily consulted, except for their signatures. The women folk may be given a little philanthropic budget to play with, but their views do not drive the strategic plan for the family's overall finances. The woman sits in the parlor giving away nickels and dimes, while father and brother work in the counting house building and controlling the family fortune, by means fair or foul. Maybe that is how the world works, and must work. Kindness married to and subordinate to rapacity, animal spirits, and cunning? Maybe that is the tacit bargain of philanthropy and capitalism, or of hearth and war. If the woman gets a coach, and the coach and she are not talking to the advisors, well, that is by design, and the design is not that of the coach or the woman. They were excluded already.
"Metanoia" is a Greek work that means "mindshift." It is translated in the King James Bible as "repentance." Somehow the conversation about wealth coaching with these strong women I have had a change of heart and a change of mind. I now notice in speaking to mixed groups of male and female advisors or donors how important it is to acknowledge that women's ways of relating to the world have been marginalized in the traditional planning process. When men marginalize women's wisdom, about family, community, and our responsibilities to one another, we men lose a part of ourselves. We mechanical men, haunted by our own ghosts. We become a caricature of masculinity: over-weening, belligerent, bullying, coarse, selfish, controlling, and contentious. We begin to sound like tax attorneys.
Poetry, dance, philanthropy, love, history, music, wisdom - the muses are female, so are the graces. The inspired man is the one - clearly - who hears and heeds the divine feminine. I knew that, at some level, but somehow this contentious conversation brought it home to me. So, thank you, the women to whom I lost this battle.