Recent research conducted by The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) at QUT found almost 90% of professional advisers believe their high-net-worth clients hold an interest in philanthropy, but only 10% discuss this with their clients. Philanthropy does not just benefit the community who receives it, but it can also nurture the client-adviser relationship, therefore making philanthropy a logical topic to include in any conversation. This then begs the question, why are professional advisers reluctant to discuss philanthropy?

Emma Woolley is a Partner at Hall & Wilcox and board member of Australian Communities Foundation (ACF). As an estate planner who has provided advice to many families across her career, philanthropy is a conversation Emma is very familiar with.

“It’s confronting talking about your mortality.  I have a personal interest in passing benefits back into our communities and I’m always looking for opportunities to help my client to do that. For high-net-wealth clients, we talk about the ‘economics of enough’ if they have enough to be comfortable, we look into how they can benefit society as well.”

“In these discussions, you demonstrate that you’re interested in their values and their plans. It can only enhance your relationship and their planning. It shows you’re willing to invest your time. How do we achieve that? You have to be looking out for opportunities and being proactive in your discussions – not everyone is.”

Fact: only 5% of professional advisers feel they are well informed to provide philanthropy assistance.

Woolley isn’t surprised by this.

“Many lawyers working in the estate planning area would have these discussions, but it is maybe less common for those in accounting and finance – they may not feel they have the level of education and understanding that others have. They are bound to be hesitant.”

This presents a great opportunity for professional development. However, 60% of professional advisers indicate that it is difficult to find philanthropy experts within their organisation.

“If you have your core area of practice, you stick to that and you have little time or resources to devote to something that’s not your core”.

Woolley said the level of compliance expected of financial advisers meant that providing advice outside of their core competency posed a real risk, and that professional advisers seeking support and capacity building in philanthropy should turn to organisations like ACF, who specialises in philanthropic information, training, and advice.

At ACF, we offer philanthropic consulting services to professional advisers who feel they don’t have the technical expertise and governance knowledge in grant making and social impact to support their clients’ philanthropic aspirations.

Take the first step by downloading our guide to philanthropy for professional advisers from our Professional Advisers web page.