11th Dec 2019

Blog by Sandra King, Chief Philanthropy Officer at the Community Foundation

Sandra King, Community Foundation (left) and Lauren Janus, Thoughtful Philanthropy

Last month I had the pleasure of running a breakfast session for professional advisors on advising clients with diverse backgrounds on philanthropy and giving.  I co-presented with the knowledgeable Lauren Janus from Thoughtful Philanthropy and Ward Hadaway kindly hosted us.   In this blog I share some of the headline themes we shared on the day and also a couple of case studies of clients from diverse backgrounds to help you think through how you might approach conversations with them on philanthropy and giving. 

Let’s face it. Philanthropy is traditionally a white man’s game. When we think about who has built libraries, endowed universities and in many cases perpetuated today’s inequalities through their philanthropy, it’s almost exclusively been old white men. Throughout history, as highlighted in our Philanthropy North East research, these have been the people with wealth, so it makes sense that any major philanthropic gifts would come from them - heterogenous group that it is.

But times are absolutely changing. Every year women take control of a greater percentage of the world’s wealth. Similarly, non‐white ethnic groups are gaining affluence as international barriers to trade continue to erode.

For professional advisors, their client base is also likely to be more diverse than it would have been 20 years or so ago.  Some may be lucky enough to have more women, more openly gay and more non‐white clients asking for advice. New clients. New giving priorities. These clients aren’t coming to the table with the same needs and aspirations as more traditional (male and white) clients. The same is true when it comes to their charitable giving. People from different ethnic groups, for example, often give in different ways from whites. Individuals and families who are of Indian heritage, for example, tend to give more readily to education and Indian disaster and poverty relief. Practising Muslims give 2.5% of their income to the poor every year through zakat. And many people of African or Caribbean heritage will give to religious institutions like a church on a regular basis.

One unifying theme among non‐white ethnic groups is the importance many of these individuals place on giving to family. This might mean sending financial support to family living back in their native countries. Or it could just mean paying school fees for less fortunate members of their extended families living in the UK. It’s all philanthropy, and the astute professional adviser will ask the right questions to ensure they understand how their non‐white clients are interested in shaping their own philanthropic legacy.

Ready to try your hand at talking with diverse clients about philanthropy? Below are two hypothetical case studies we presented at this #PoweredbyPhilanthropy event for professional advisers last month.

Case Study 1 - Mrs. Khan

Mrs. Khan is in her 60s and lost her husband 8 years ago to heart disease. You were a professional adviser to her husband, and began working with her after his passing. Mrs. Khan moved to the UK from Pakistan to attend university in the 1970s, where she met her husband. She is a cheerful, well‐educated woman who long ago left a career in teaching to care for her daughter, who was born with spina bifida and recently passed away. Mrs. Khan has three other grown children who live close by.

Mr. Khan was a software engineer, a profession shared by two of their children today. The surviving daughter is a social worker. Financially, Mrs. Khan has more than enough to live off but you know she’s very careful with her money. She volunteers once a week at her daughter’s former school for children with disabilities, and she’s a practicing Muslim, active in her local mosque. Right now, you’re helping Mrs. Khan better understand her financial situation so she doesn’t feel that she has to be so careful with her money.

Q1       Knowing what you do about trends in giving among the British Muslim community, what might be some of the issues Mrs. Khan might want to give to?

  • Family - you know that her children are well‐educated and seem to be on firm financial footing with good jobs. But the daughter who is a social worker might need more help than her brothers, especially if she’s unmarried. Odds are that Mrs. Khan firmly supports her daughter’s professional decision and she may want to help her enjoy a better quality of life than a social worker’s salary can finance.
  • Religion - Mrs. Khan is a practicing Muslim, so she likely practices zakat. If you haven’t already incorporated this 2.5% annual gift into her financial plan, put it in now. You’ll also want to talk to her about leaving gifts to charity or her mosque in her will.
  • Outside interests - Clearly the issue of disability is close to Mrs. Khan’s heart. While she may not feel that she has a lot of extra money, often the act of giving something small to a cause you feel strongly about can give a real sense of agency. Encourage Mrs. Kahan to consider a small, regular financial gift to a group like her daughter’s former school to get her into the habit of giving a bit more and see how it goes. You could also connect her with a charitable giving adviser to help her identify a wider variety of ways to give in support of families living with a disabled child. Finally, Mr. Khan died of heart disease, is this an issue she’d like to consider giving to as well?


Q2 How might you start the conversation about giving with Mrs Khan?

  • You might start the conversation with Mrs. Khan by mentioning what you know about her already. For example you might say: “I know you volunteer weekly at your daughter’s former school. You can afford to make a larger financial gift to the school or another organisation that serves children with disabilities like spina bifida. Is this something you’d like to talk more about?”

Case Study 2 Greg Palmer and Robert Orr

Greg and Robert have been together for 15 years. Greg is an oncologist and Robert works in finance. They’re in their late 40s and have no children. They plan to marry next year and you’ve been helping them merge their finances as well as come up with a retirement plan. They love to travel and have mentioned an interest in volunteering abroad in a place Greg could use his medical training.

Both men have family in the UK, but Robert became estranged from his father when he came out as gay. Greg gives regular financial support to his sister, who is a single mum to two school aged children.

Q1       Knowing what you do about trends in giving among the LGBT community, what might be some of the issues Greg and Robert might want to give to?

  • Family -First, you’ll want to take account of Greg’s financial commitment to his sister. Would he want to formalise this but contributing to Junior ISAs for his niece and nephew? Or maybe help his sister purchase a home?
  • LGBT issues - While you don’t want to assume the couple automatically want to give to LGBT groups just because they themselves are gay, there’s a good chance they’ve thought about it if they aren’t already giving. Clearly Robert knows what it’s like to have family who can’t accept his sexual orientation, and there are charities that support LGBT youth who are coming out in more conservative families. The occasion of their wedding might be a good opportunity to give to a group like this.
  • Outside interests - Clearly Greg and Robert can afford to give, and there’s a strong chance it’s something they’re already doing in some capacity. You already know they have an interest in travel and possibly even medical support for developing countries. These are issues to explore with them, perhaps bringing in a charitable giving adviser to help them create a giving plan for their new life together.


Q2.      How might you start the conversation about giving with Greg and Robert?

  • Talk about what you know about them and their situation in life. You might say something like, “With your wedding coming up, is there a cause or organisation you’d like to make a financial gift to?” Mention their interest in travel and ask them to talk more about their interest in volunteering abroad. Are there organisations they could start to make gifts to now, before they have the time to make a longer term volunteer commitment?

And Finally

A key point with all clients is to keep the conversation going.  Even if your clients from diverse backgrounds aren’t ready to formalise their charitable giving, keep talking about it.  In many cases giving is something that has to percolate in someone’s head for a while before they act on it. But when they do, they’re often happier with their overall financial plans, and with you for encouraging them to integrate giving into those plans.

If you’d like to learn more about talking with your clients about charitable giving, then we have information and short videos on this here Professional advisors | Community Foundation .  You can also visit Lauren’s helpful website www.ThoughtfulPhilanthropy.com or take the one‐hour online course she runs for professional advisers, called “How to add client value through charitable giving advice.”

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