There are two statistics that show why advisors need to start focusing on charitable giving if their practices serve women or plan to in the coming years. First, women are expected to control nearly $30 trillion in financial assets by 2030, according to a report from McKinsey & Company, a dollar amount that exceeds the current GDP of the United States. Second, philanthropy is the top interest among ultra-wealthy women, those with a net worth of $30 million or more, far outdistancing sports, art, education, the outdoors, animals, wellness and music according to the 2022 “World Ultra Wealth Report.”

As women gain financial power, they’re becoming a bigger force in philanthropy than ever before. Donors like MacKenzie Scott, Melinda Gates and Priscilla Chan are just as prominent today as Mike Bloomberg, Warren Buffett and Eli Broad were a few years earlier. In your market, there are generous individuals who often wield the same impact on their communities as those mega-donors do on a global scale.

We are seeing evidence of this in the foundations we work with as well. Over the last five years, we observed a 32% increase in the number of women in leadership roles, a 26% increase in the number of women grantors and a 76% increase in the dollars granted by women—all of which point to the growing role women play in driving philanthropic decisions and impact. 

As I discussed in the article “Meeting the Needs of Givers” (in Financial Advisor’s December 2023) issue, you’ll find new ways to engage with clients and deliver value for them when you build your expertise in charitable giving. And with women controlling more wealth and increasing their giving power, the time to do so is now.

Here are some of the things to think about if you want to help your clients successfully navigate their personal giving journeys.

Strategy And Impact
For one thing, you can encourage clients to be strategic and explore the ways they can make the greatest charitable impact. Here are some ways they can do this, especially if they’re new to philanthropy:

Get them to define their philanthropic purpose. This is the “why” that will guide their giving decisions for years to come. The reason isn’t set in stone and it will evolve over time as they encounter new causes and organizations they care about.

Encourage them to volunteer. There’s no better way to understand a charitable organization and its cause than by serving on its board or by providing hands-on help.

Have them find mentors. They can seek out experienced people who will explain their own philanthropic journeys and offer suggestions for how to give in a way that has impact.

Suggest that they share their own professional expertise pro bono. Doing so can be another way of helping a nonprofit, aside from donating cash and assets. Whatever your clients’ background is (whether it’s in medicine, law, accounting, investment advisory), their in-depth knowledge might be something that many charitable organizations would highly value.

Have your clients explore charitable-giving vehicles. While they can always make donations directly to nonprofits, they can deepen their involvement (and possibly increase their tax deductions) by using vehicles like donor-advised funds, planned gifts, charitable trusts and private foundations.

Giving Is A Work In Progress
As most philanthropists know, giving is always a work in progress. Many donors’ goals evolve over time, which is absolutely OK. Experienced givers often wonder if they should pivot to a different focus area or change the amount of time they dedicate or the dollars they give. When this happens to your clients, encourage them to:

Reassess their philanthropy. How do they feel about their current and past giving? Could they be making a bigger impact by doing things differently? Are there trends, economic factors, advancements or technologies that have changed the landscape in their focus area? Are there new needs and issues that have captured their attention?

Take (some) risks. Complex social issues often call for bold solutions. Some charities might address the symptoms of a problem (for instance, if there are not enough beds in a hospital) while others focus on the root causes (the contaminated drinking water that leads to higher hospitalization rates). There are many ways to tackle an issue. When supporting untested, innovative ideas, there’s always a risk that those ideas might not have the desired outcome, but they might be transformational if they do.

Learn from their mistakes. Giving money away can be more difficult than it seems at first. So encourage your clients to be candid with themselves about whether their giving is actually helping the organizations they’re trying to support or saddling the recipients with too much responsibility.

Consider estate planning. Philanthropy is an excellent estate planning tool that can help create a multi-generational legacy of giving while shielding certain assets from estate taxes.

Philanthropy Builds Legacy
Clients who are further along on their philanthropic journey may be contemplating their legacy and how to cement it. They may be thinking about the next generation and leaving a heritage not only of dollars but of values, too. For clients in this advanced stage of giving, perhaps suggest they do the following:

Take on more visible roles at organizations. If they’re longtime, committed donors, they could assume a leadership role with the board of a nonprofit they support or serve as an ambassador for the causes they care about.

Become more effective philanthropists. Giving more isn’t always the answer for these clients, so consider helping them brainstorm other ways to support their causes. For instance, they could fund research to help deepen the understanding of an issue, increase public awareness and change policy to drive specific outcomes. They could also accept online grant proposals from new charities that meet specific conditions.

Pay it forward. They could share their giving expertise with younger and newer donors to help them get over the learning curve.

Measure their charitable impact. While your clients’ grant terms and reports can confirm whether their donations are being used as intended, these reports don’t always answer the critical question: “Am I making a difference?” So you can help clients determine the criteria by which they measure their success and charitable impact. 

According to research from Fidelity Charitable, 86% of women wish they could be doing more to make a difference. This can be a huge opportunity for wealth advisors. By honing your expertise in charitable giving, you can connect with your clients in ways that reinforce their interests and align their assets with the social issues and global developments that matter to them most.

Hannah Shaw Grove is chief marketing officer of Foundation Source, the nation’s largest provider of technology, administration and expertise for private foundations and planned giving.