Do something good: Why community connections are now part of your client work

Today’s social impact culture mindset has infiltrated every business, nonprofit, and financial institution in America. The boundaries of our personal and professional lives are blurred across a wide range of social impact behaviors.

What does this mean for your work with your clients? It means your clients are walking into your office with "doing good" on their minds. You can build an immediate connection with your clients when you start a conversation about the ways they--and you--are getting involved in the community. Here are three tips for starting that conversation.  

1. Demonstrate that you are in touch with the wide range of "doing good" activities.

With the rapid rise of social consciousness, philanthropy is expanding to cover far more territory than just one or two ways to do good. Consider the full footprint of social impact lifestyle factors that make up the contemporary marketplace mindset: Giving to charities, volunteering in the community, serving on boards, donating necessities to people in need, recycling, purchasing products that support a cause, marketing a favorite organization, celebrating at fundraising events, sharing with friends and family, and caring about your own well-being. Ask your clients about a few of these social impact behaviors. This lets them know that you care about them as human beings. 

2. Be aware of the regulatory environment.

Many of your clients who run or own businesses are paying attention to social responsibility in the corporate sector. For example, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an international standards organization that helps businesses, governments, and other groups understand and communicate the impact of business on critical sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, corruption, and many others. GRI represents the commitment of hundreds of companies to strive toward a common set of benchmarks to protect the earth and humanity. More than 90 percent of the world’s largest 250 companies are among the thousands of “GRI reporters,” meaning they subscribe to the organization’s standards for sustainability performance. Ask your clients about their corporate commitment to civic engagement. 

3. Show your clients that you are doing something, too.

Your clients want to know that you share their commitment to community. Give them peace of mind by talking about your own volunteering efforts, the boards you serve on, or the charities you support. Best of all, let your clients know that you are connected to the Community Foundation, an organization committed to helping people fulfill community dreams through the power of philanthropy. 

IDEAS FOR USING THIS ARTICLE

As a parallel effort to your professional advisor outreach initiative, consider encouraging your donors to make sure their wealth advisors understand their family's charitable goals. This video illustrates sample messaging.

Fiduciary snapshot: Counseling clients who serve on boards

One of the most important questions you can ask a client is whether the client serves on boards of directors of nonprofit organizations. Not only will the answers give you insights into the client's community and philanthropy priorities, but you'll also have an opportunity to discuss fiduciary obligations when your client asks you for advice.

Your Community Foundation team is a terrific resource for learning more about serving on boards of directors in the community, whether you are advising a client who is serving on a board or you're interested in serving on a board yourself.

To get you started with information you can share with your clients, here’s a handy checklist of the three key responsibilities of board members:

  1. Mission. The board is in charge of making sure the organization is achieving measurable goals to carry out the charity’s purpose. Charitable status carries with it a host of requirements under state corporate law, overseen by the attorney general, as well as tax laws set out in the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, the board is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the charity’s programs are actually working.

  2. Leadership. The person responsible for the day-to-day business of the charity is the executive director, chief executive officer, or a person in some other designated position charged with oversight of the charity’s operations and programs. The board’s responsibility is to oversee this person, including hiring and firing the position. Additionally, the board has to govern itself and elect new members and officers according to its bylaws to make sure the governing body stays healthy and active.

  3. Money. A big responsibility of directors is to ensure that the organization has the financial resources to carry out its mission. This responsibility includes compensating employees, covering overhead, and paying for the expenses of the programs that are delivering on the charity’s mission. In addition, the board needs to be sure proper financial oversight is in place with all the right legal and accounting controls. Finally, most boards expect directors to give financial support in some form, whether that is in the form of personal gifts, gifts from the director’s company, or through the director’s own efforts to fundraise on behalf of the charity.

Fulfilling responsibilities as a board member requires a big commitment of time. For instance, BoardSource reports that nearly half of all charity boards meet more than six times a year, and 75 percent of charities ask board members to participate in an annual retreat.

Not everyone is up for the fiduciary responsibility and time commitment of the director role. That’s okay! There are other methods of serving the charities and causes you and your clients love. For example, serving on a committee or task force does not carry the same fiduciary responsibility that comes with serving as a director, although it’s still a big commitment of time and effort.

Understanding your clients' community board activities gives you an important connection point as their advisor, and it can open the door for community opportunities for you, too. Your Community Foundation team would love to explore this topic with you. We invite you to get in touch!   

 

You rock: How your Community Foundation gives you star power

You know the drill. A client mentions a specific charity in the community and asks you whether that charity is reputable and effective. That's a tough question to answer! You're not in a position to know the ins and outs of how charities in the community are being managed.

Fortunately, the team at the Community Foundation can help you. It's our job to know the superstars in the nonprofit community. There are very few nonprofit organizations we've not worked with over the years. So, when you get a question like that from a client, the first step is to call us! Your clients will be relieved to know that they are working with an attorney, accountant, or financial advisor who knows experts on matters in the community. 

In addition, you can offer a client a few simple pointers to get started checking out charities on their own. 

1. Tell your client to consider the source. Your talk track can go something like this: "If it’s a friend, colleague, or a neighbor asking you to support a cause she knows and loves, you can be more confident in your contribution. Ask about the organization to find out whether it’s a fit for you. Don’t worry—you won’t offend your friend by asking questions. Instead, your interest in the cause your friend is marketing will give her a chance to tell the story about how that organization is making a social impact. Spreading the word is a good thing!"

2. Suggest that your client start with something other than money. You can say something like the following: "Giving money to a charity is not the only way to do good. Supporting causes includes a wide range of other activities, such as recycling, volunteering, serving on boards, donating canned goods or clothing, attending community events, marketing a favorite nonprofit, sharing with friends and families in need, purchasing brands that support causes, and caring for your own health and wellness. So, if you are uncomfortable with a monetary contribution, do something else for the charity you’re being asked to support. Volunteer for an hour or two, donate household items, or attend one of the charity’s events by buying a ticket instead of making an outright donation. These activities give you a chance to check things out."

3. Encourage your client to go online. Here's what you can say: "Of course, you should check out the charity online. Giving is big business, and charities today know they need to report compelling information on their websites about the difference they’re making with your dollars."

No matter how your client chooses to create social impact, every act of doing good counts, especially when the client is supporting the causes the client loves the most.

Finally, remember that the Community Foundation is here for you. Our mission is to increase charitable giving in the community, connect donors to causes, and lead on critical community issues to improve the quality of life in our region, now and in the future. We look forward to helping you and your clients shine!