The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Turning Financial Advisors into Fundraising Allies

Adapted from Financial Advisors as Guiding Stars to Philanthropic Giving

Have you ever been close to closing a large gift only to have the donor's advisor kill it?

  • When you ask for a large gift, do you do so with a full understanding of the gift's impact on the donor's overall financial situation and his or her other goals for self, family, and society?
  • Do you always make it a point to engage the donor's advisors early in the gift cultivation process?
  • When the donor plans his or her overall financial and estate plan, do you have a seat at the table?

Why Advisors Kill or Forward Charitable Proposals from Fundraisers

"Not invented here." A trusted advisor who is not involved early in the gift cultivation process may, by reflex, kill a deal simply because he or she did not think of it first or feels threatened.

  • An advisor who has done a good estate or financial plan for the client may clearly see that the gift as proposed will upset those prior plans and leave the client's other goals underfunded.
  • An advisor may see that, although the gift size is feasible, the proposed structure is not optimal.
  • The advisor may be paid in part by money under management. The proposed gift may reduce the total money managed by the advisor and hence the advisor's own income.
  • On the other hand, the proposed gift may require redoing the donor's overall plans and may drive significant fee income, particularly for fee-based planners and legal advisors.

Actions by Fundraisers That Distinguish Them as Donor Advocates and Deepen Donor Trust

Begin with philanthropic motivation and education.

  • Rather than trying to close the gift, suggest to the potential donor that you are willing (with his or her permission) to contact the donor's trusted advisor to discuss the possibility of a gift and to see how it might best be structured, all things considered.
  • Go to advisors with a range of ideas for gifts now and later.
  • Seek your place at the giving-decision-making table as a teammate.
  • Bring to the table not just your own cause but the overall responsibility to speak for philanthropic motivation, for the benefits of giving for the family, for the positive effect on children, for the meaning and purpose it gives the donor's life.
  • Bring to the table whatever specific gift proposals (charitable trust, outright gift, charitable lead trust, bequest) you might have, but also listen to other scenarios and ideas from the advisors. Educate yourself about as many of the tools as possible, and try to learn at least some of the financial and estate-planning lingo that goes with them.
  • See beyond the gift to your nonprofit. See as the ideal outcome the best possible financial and estate plan that works for the donor, family, and society. It's one based on the donor's own best judgment—a judgment illuminated by the noble considerations you have kept uppermost.

Tips for Fundraisers for Teaming Up with Advisors

  • Seek out the best advisors in town. Have lunch. Build bridges. Make friends.
  • If you don't have a "board of other professional advisors" to draw on broader expertise, start one [to benefit your client].
  • Consider events for advisors. In those events, elevate the advisors' own outlook from tools and techniques to vision, values, meaning, and purpose.
  • Give more referrals to advisors. That is how you get more referrals from advisors.
To obtain a free copy of "Self Assessment Quiz for Fundraiser Success in Working with Financial Advisors," contact

Charles B. Maclean and Philip B. Cubeta
© 2007, 2008, PhilanthropyNow and Gift Hub. Adapted from Financial Advisors as Guiding Stars to Philanthropic Giving; adapted with permission.

Charles B. Maclean is the founder and chief committed listener of PhilanthropyNow, a site dedicated to igniting passion for community give-back. Phil Cubeta is the founder of philanthropy blog Gift Hub.
Topics: Fundraising