Working with Professional Advisors

From Toolkit for Giving

Professional advisors can be invaluable guides in helping you plan and execute your charitable giving. Advisors help provide thorough information on your giving options and how these options will work in your specific financial situation. They can also project how each option would affect your taxes, savings and legacy planning. The type of advisor and expertise you most need may depend, in part, on the kinds of giving options you'd like to examine in depth (see Ways to Give for an overview of your major charitable giving options).

Types of Professional Advisors

When planning their charitable giving, people most often work with one or more of the following types of professional advisors:

  • Attorney (may include estate planning, tax, mergers and acquisitions, or corporate)
  • Accountant
  • Estate Planner
  • Financial Planner
  • Stock Broker
  • Insurance Broker
  • Planned Giving Officer (these people work for the nonprofits who would accept your donation, but can provide good information to share with your advisors)
  • Philanthropy Consultant (some advisors from the disciplines listed above are concentrating their businesses solely on helping clients with their charitable giving)

Selecting Professional Advisors

Because advisors have different expertise and different products and services to sell, you may get a variety of opinions when asking for a recommended course of action. As a consumer, you need to find the right match of skills and personality to meet your needs.

You can interview prospective advisors about their expertise in the giving vehicles you are considering, but it may also be important to learn about an advisor's experience in helping clients make determinations about their values and giving style.

According to data collected by the National Center for Family Philanthropy through hundreds of interviews with donors, donors are most satisfied with their advisors when the advisor:

  • discusses philanthropy with them in detail, asks questions and listens
  • makes philanthropy a discussion about life goals, rather than about estate planning and mortality
  • keeps the giving plan simple and/or limits discussions of complex giving vehicles to the top few options
  • treats the plan as a vehicle for giving rather than as a financial product he/she is selling
  • is a giver him/herself
  • knows when to look for additional assistance rather than trying to be an expert on all aspects of giving and family dynamics

Since charitable giving plans deal with personal and sometimes sensitive issues, it is important that you work with an advisor with whom you feel absolutely comfortable. When it comes to narrowing the field, trust your instincts.

Advisor Referrals

Professional associations of the various advisor disciplines can tell you if an advisor is in good standing and meets their membership criteria. The following websites offer search features to help you find qualified advisors in your area:

Minnesota Organizations

National Organizations