Taking Action: A Model for Change (Part 3 of 3)

You know that saying: “different strokes for different folks”? 

When it comes to the model for change in charitable giving and philanthropy, it’s certainly applicable. 

Here’s what I mean by that. 

In our previous blog, I talked about how different approaches are needed for different stages of change. Before that, we talked about how a contextual model for change can illuminate the path to where you want to go. You don’t want to miss it— read it here. 

Think of someone who hasn’t given much (or any!) thought to how they could make a gift to a charity (how it would fit with their budget and how they would like to have an impact). Naturally, what they need is very different from someone who is seriously considering how to give both now and in the future.

Charitable giving and planning practices.

When we haven’t given this topic (or any topic for that matter) much thought (Pre-Contemplation - PC) we need information. 

If this information is relevant to my values and inspires me, then I start thinking about it  (Contemplation - C). That is my charitable giving and philanthropic planning practice. 

Once I’m actually Thinking About It - Contemplation, what I need to do is explore the barriers to my taking action and the positive side of taking action. In other words, consider what will support and encourage me or you to take those next steps in our charitable and philanthropic giving.

What inspires us to take action? 

For many people, the positive side of taking action can start with exploring who and what has influenced you in your life, in the past, or right now. What are charities doing? What are they trying to accomplish that aligns with what’s important to me? 

For example, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre has an outreach program to support families who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Because I wish my family had access to this type of support, I wanted to help provide this outreach to my rural community near Lyndhurst, Ontario. If you’d like, you can learn more about the organizations we support here. 

Another example comes from a client of ours who is now retired and was a principal at a high school. When she was asked about what’s important to her and which charities align with those values, she said, “If it hadn’t been for sports, I never would have made it.” 

This realization was the spark she needed to incorporate a fitness program for at-risk youth into her will. 

We have many more examples of having meaningful conversations with our clients that ignited a spark leading to hundreds and thousands of dollars now being left to their charities of choice. 

But first, it’s important to note that this process takes time. Unfortunately, this time is often a barrier to traditional Financial Advisors having these conversations. It wasn’t as though the client I just mentioned went from the spark, right to gathering the information she needed to make this decision in one fell swoop. First, we needed to discuss in more detail the barriers to her incorporating this particular charity into her overall Philanthropic Plan as well as the benefits. 

We will talk more about the barriers we encounter and how we address them in a future blog. But for now, we want to share with you a few more examples of how this Model for Change has helped us alter many clients’ original plans to include Charitable & Philanthropic Giving into their Financial Life Plan. 

Taking that first step. 

You may also be wondering how often we need to guide our clients through this process. 

Eighty percent of our clients come to us in the Precontemplation stage. It’s our job to take our clients to the point of Contemplation and ultimately, to taking Action. 

Let’s look at this percentage and compare it to charities themselves. Our assumption is that the majority of charitable organizations would see at least 80 percent of their donors are thinking about and most likely ready to make their gift. Sometimes, as I’ve been informed by the charities, there are barriers to donors taking action and we’ll also address this in another article.

It’s very exciting to see this thought process in action while knowing that ultimately we, as financial planners, have and will make a difference by engaging in this process through our work. 

Financial advisors must do something other than simply offering a “one-off” question (ie. asking “have you thought about if you’d like to do some charitable giving as part of your estate plan?” As you know, this is a close-ended question that doesn’t facilitate dialogue. 

When met with a “no” to this question most financial advisors leave it there. 

An alternative, as mentioned above, would be to start with an exploration of their values, and who and what has made a difference in their lives. 

(By the way, although this blog is focused on the questions financial advisors ask their clients, there are also some important questions a client should ask a financial advisor. Learn about them here.)

This is part of engaging in the groundwork that will ultimately lead to a meaningful conversation about this topic. This one-off question stated above can stop the conversation dead (if you’ll pardon the pun) in its tracks. 

Using the motivational model for change opens up so many more opportunities for exploration which ultimately leads to our clients taking action—incorporating philanthropy into their wills, and considering how they are structuring their charitable gifts now.  

We have several stories with happy endings that result in churches, mental health organizations, community foundations, and donor-advised funds—to name a few—receiving substantial amounts of money. This is money that wouldn’t have gone to them had we not engaged in these conversations.  

When I think about the impact our clients are having on the world, I am thrilled. Becoming the guide in this process is incredibly rewarding and satisfying; seeing our clients and their families being the heroes of their life stories.

Recognizing the stages involved in making a change (i.e., going from pre-contemplation to contemplation to taking action) provides incredible results. Adding to that, an awareness of our role as Financial Advisors on how to guide our clients through this process can make a huge difference.  

We believe it behooves us within financial services to lead the way! 

We are ideally positioned to do so. We can help support charities that align with our clients’ values, assist our clients in planning to structure their wills and lives to maximize the benefits to charities while minimizing their taxes—ultimately catapulting the impact that our charities can have, based on the work they do. 

If you’d like to talk more about taking action and magnifying your charitable gift-giving, inheritance planning, or estate planning in general, please get in touch. 

Did you enjoy this article? Here are three more you might also enjoy:

Have you thought about what you want your legacy to be?
Who do you want to benefit from your money when you are no longer here?
Can you leave your entire estate to charity? 

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