The wealthy are not as insular as you might imagine. It is easy to think about the visionary business leader, the person who has an idea in his head and charges forward, until the goal is achieved. In reality, science advances when many scientists share their progress and setbacks. Leaders build consensus within boards before they launch new ideas, confident they will have supportive voices on their side. This knowledge can help advisors make deeper connections in the HNW community, especially in the volunteer and nonprofit world.

Let us look at a few examples.

1. The wealthy like matching gifts. You might think people with money pick a cause they like and open their checkbook, driving the mission. Some might do this, especially if they have billions of dollars at their disposal. In your local community, a wealthy donor to charity might offer a large donation, with the stipulation it is a matching gift. They might pledge $500,000 with the understanding the organization raises another $500,000 from other donors within a set time period.
The advisor: As a volunteer, you bring a unique skill to the organization. You are a rainmaker. You can look people in the eyes and ask them for money. When they have a matching gift hovering out there, your skill in raising money is valuable. You can approach this from the other direction: If you have found a major donor who wants to help, you can suggest they propose a matching gift. The organization needs to do their part in finding the rest.

2. The wealthy look for familiar faces. Peer pressure works. Many charity galas do a “paddle raise” as part of their live auction. Here is what happens: The executive director takes the microphone and announces a project. The hospital might need the latest MRI machine or the animal shelter needs a new vehicle. There is a cost announced. They ask for specific contribution levels in descending order. The audience is seeded with donors to get the ball rolling. Here is how the best organizations do it: You do not merely hold up your paddle to be counted, you stand up! Now the audience sees who the big donors are! The car dealer is under a lot of pressure if their biggest competitor is already standing! Audience members think: “If that dealer is donating, why isn’t the other one?” Peer pressure gets more people on their feet.
The advisor: You want to belong to this club. Ask ahead of time if there will be a paddle raise and what the increments will be. It might start in the thousands, but it ends in the hundreds. If the lowest number is $100 and the next lowest level is $250, you should be giving at the $260 level (at least). When they announce that level, you want to immediately be on your feet! Stand up and be counted!   

3. The wealthy keep score. There is an informal rule within the HNW charitable community. In simple terms, “If you support my event, I will support yours.” When an invitation arrives in the mail (they still do), most people flip it over to see who is on the committee. If they see a familiar name or if someone they know has handwritten a personal note on the invitation, it is “good form” to buy tickets to attend or mail back a check as a donation if you cannot attend. The wealthy keep a mental list of whose events they supported. When their charity does a gala and they serve on the committee, they are expecting “payback.”
The advisor: You want to play by the rules. Buy tickets or send in a donation when the invitations arrive. Let your connection at that charity know you have done so! One advisor I met skips the return mail envelope and sends the reply back to the connection’s home address! Now you have a considerable resource at your disposal. When your charity does a gala, you get invitations sent to the right people. You are now a rainmaker!

4. The wealthy might have money, but not time. You know many wealthy people in your area. The surgeon might always be with patients. The CEO is forever flying from plant to plant, meeting with managers and employees. However, they have a favorite charity. They can write checks, but they are too busy to fundraise or do much more. You have time.
The advisor: You have the skill to execute a plan. You can get people excited about it. You know how much cash, time or other resources they can put behind a project. You “get the plan to come together.” The HNW individual knows they might be writing checks, but you are getting the job done. You have risen in their esteem.

5. The wealthy know how to hire well. As a volunteer at a nonprofit, you are not getting paid. The clue is in the word “volunteer.” As a financial advisor, there might be rules about how you can earn outside income. However, the nonprofit has officers and a board. You want to climb the ladder. You might not be part of the “Old Boy” network, so this might be tough.
The advisor: It is not tough anymore. That wealthy person who has seen you fundraise might decide you “would be a great board member.” They propose you. They build support among their peers on the board. Suddenly you have been propelled up the ladder.

6. The wealthy reward good behavior.  If the wealthy people in the organization own their own businesses, they know how important it is to retain good staff. They know you have a skill in fundraising. Many others on the board might “talk a good game” but you get the job done. They know word gets around and other organizations might be seeking to steal you away.
The advisor: Keep delivering. Become indispensable. A friend with a company that kept him busy remarked about a fellow board member who was younger. He did all the right things and got results. The company owner wanted to reward this volunteer, who happened to be a financial advisor. “I gave him my retirement account.” It was unclear if this was the retirement plan for the entire company or his personal plan, but I am confident it was significant.

The wealthy are rarely loners. They collaborate. You want them to collaborate with you.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book Captivating the Wealthy Investor is available on Amazon.