Less than half of high-net-worth individuals are fully satisfied with the conversations they have with their advisors about philanthropy, according to a new study by U.S. Trust released today.
The U.S. Trust Study of the Philanthropic Conversation, conducted in partnership with The Philanthropic Initiative, shows a number of disconnects between what advisors and their clients think about charitable giving, some of which might contribute the dissatisfaction of a majority clients with the philanthropic conversation, the study says.
Only 41 percent of those clients surveyed are fully satisfied with the philanthropic conversations they have with their advisors. One reason may be that twice as many advisors (71 percent) say they raise the philanthropic discussion from a technical perspective – focusing on tax considerations or wealth structuring, for example – compared to those who do so beginning with their clients’ philanthropic goals or passions (35 percent), the study says.
The study was conducted of 300 professional advisors, including wealth advisors, trust and estate attorneys, accountants and other tax professionals, and 120 individuals with $3 million or more in investable assets who are actively engaged in charitable giving.
Of the advisors surveyed, 89 percent say they discuss philanthropy with at least some of their clients, and 71 percent say they make it a regular practice to ask clients about their interest in charitable giving. However, clients say the advisors bring up the subject on their own just 17 percent of the time.
Advisors and clients also disagree on several other issues regarding philanthropic giving. Forty- six percent of the advisors believe reducing their tax burden to be one of their clients’ most popular motivations for giving, while just 10 percent of HNW individuals cited taxes as a reason for giving.
Further evidence of a disconnect on the topic of taxes was found when advisors cited a belief that 40 percent of HNW individuals would reduce their giving if the estate tax were eliminated, and that 78 percent would do so if income tax deductions for donations were eliminated. Just 6 percent and 45 percent of HNW individuals, respectively, indicated they would reduce their charitable giving if these tax policy changes occurred.
Advisors are also under the misimpression that the top reasons HNW individuals do not give are: that they won’t have enough money to leave to their heirs (41 percent); they will not be left with enough money for themselves (34 percent), and they don’t consider themselves wealthy enough to give (22 percent). On the contrary, HNW individuals cite among their top reasons: a concern that their gift won’t be used wisely by a nonprofit recipient (30 percent); their lack of knowledge about or connection to a charity (24 percent), and a fear of increased donation requests from others (17 percent).
Despite the disagreements over the details of charitable giving, 74 percent of advisors say that discussing philanthropy with clients is good for their business because it presents a more comprehensive and holistic approach to managing a client’s wealth, demonstrates greater interest in their clients’ charitable goals and aspirations, shows clients that they are interested in more than just their money, and provides insights that help advisors better serve their clients.
Almost the same number of advisors, 75 percent, also find discussing philanthropy to be an excellent way to deepen relationships by connecting with clients on something truly meaningful to them, the study says.