If a philanthropy is an artful journey, who is in the driver's seat? Donor? Fundraiser? Advisor? And who gives whom a ride? Whose vision of the desired destination? Whose map? If the donor is married, wouldn't it be ideal if the prevailing vision were both his and hers, an expression of their shared commitments to each other's security, to the financial and moral well-being of their children, and to the health of the communities in which they participate? As advisors and fundraisers perhaps we can put ourselves in service to that vision, and reach our goals by helping other's achieve theirs.
What is Driven?
If a married couple has a giving budget of $15,000, income of $250,000, and assets of $15,000,000 and they have a vision of a better world for self, family and society, what money is encompassed and governed by that vision? If she is driving the giving plan for the $15,000, will her voice be heard at the planning table when the $15,000,000 is planned by an estate tax attorney working with her husband? When I ask this question of women and they ask it of women of wealth, I am finding that the answers are passionate and lengthy.
He and She
Men often dominate the estate planning procss as both advisors and clients. Men are proud to say, "I don't do touchy-feely." As a result many an estate plan has less heart and vision than it might if the woman were included at the estate planning table as, at the very least, the advocate for plans built around love and concern, as well as dollars and cents. I do not mean this to be a gendered or stereotyped suggestion. Women can indeed and should indeed master rigorous tax, legal, and financial strategies. Men can indeed and should indeed listen to their own better nature. The Muses are women, so are the Graces. In an inspired plan, one that governs all the money, now, later, at death and beyond, both head and heart, ying and yang, prudential and idealistic, hard and soft, self-regarding and other-regarding, rigorous and intuitive, objective and subjective, male and female, Mars and Venus, are well-represented and in dialectical strife and harmony.
- The donor(s) awkened ideals should drive the legacy process.
- All the donor's assets, liabilities, income and expenses, as well as gifts should be included in the overall plan of which the giving plan is a piece.
- The highest vision of husband and wife, or both partners, should govern the plan.
- To create such a marriage of true minds is an art as much as a science.
- At the planning table we need advisors with rigor and advisors who are skilled in the liberal art of eliciting ideals, managing open-ended dialogue, and guiding clients through the process to clarity as to shared ends in view.
- Socrates called this process, in honor of his mother who was a midwife, "midwiffery," or as it has been translated, "the maeutic method."
The ideas above ring true to those trained in the liberal arts. Often it is the fundraiser, or a life coach, who has made that stupid choice of major. Idealists understand. And idealists are often found in nonprofit work. As a result, it may be the fundraisers, and nonprofit leaders, who double as "midwife" for an inspired plan. It may be the technical advisors who create the final plan, but it may be the human being making a living in the nonprofit sector, who conducts the maeutic process by which the donor(s) come to clarity about what they really want for themselves, heirs and community.