Financial advice is all about changing lives. It creates opportunity and improves wellbeing. We see that regularly in our practice and our clients tell us, but the shame is, too few Australians access advice believing it’s for the big end of town.
Philanthropy too is about providing opportunity and improving wellbeing. It is distinct from charity, which tends to be short-term and reactionary, whereas philanthropy is strategic and longer term, aiming for lasting change.
Engaging in philanthropy is important for the profession because it sends a message to those who observe it that advisers are everyday people, too. It says that we’re invested in and care for our communities and I think this makes us more approachable. Engaging in philanthropy helps us live and demonstrate our values to others and so it increases trust.
Each week I teach ‘Primary Ethics’ at the local public school and have done so for the last four years. I thoroughly enjoy the role as teacher at school and financial coach in my business. They are complimentary and both provide me the opportunity to help people evolve their own thinking about their lives.
In the case of ‘Primary Ethics’, our role is to create a community of enquiry, where children are challenged with ethical dilemmas. This enables students to develop their own ethical style and values, and creates a matrix of cognition and decision-making they will hopefully carry throughout their lives.
I have been surprised by how much I get out of my participation. It’s very rewarding and the students’ enthusiasm is contagious. I’d encourage everyone to consider it.
Philanthropy is the ‘good angel’ of financial planning. It’s an enabler for all of us to get involved in community activities, not-for-profits and to give back. It’s all about the higher purpose – what are we really here for, and who we truly serve.
The social, environmental and responsible impact that can be achieved through active philanthropic engagement at all levels, is now extremely powerful and actively sought after by clients and businesses.
As an adviser, I assist clients put their aspirations into action – be that a one-off donation, to the creation of a Private Ancillary Fund (PAF), sub-fund or participation in a community foundation via a bequest. The delight this discussion brings is incredibly powerful and in many cases, defines that client’s true purpose.
On a personal level, 11 years ago, I assisted a client establish her own PAF and whilst doing so, she asked me to be the ‘Responsible Person’. That was Kindred Spirits Foundation and I am still a director and the Responsible Person on that Foundation.
I have also assisted many small not-for-profits with pro bono strategic and financial planning advice. Most recently, I was asked to be an inaugural director of the Viridian Foundation and I look forward to what we can achieve with it.
My personal mantra is: ‘You haven’t truly lived until you have done something amazing for someone who can never possibly repay you.’ And from experience, I can tell you the rewards do come – tenfold.
How often have we thought about how nice it would be if we could eliminate poverty, destroy cancer and put an end to war?
Our industry is fortunate to have countless individuals with great hearts and philanthropic intentions; the types of people who understand that we, the lucky, need to bring forward those who are not.
Unfortunately, many people are becoming disenchanted when it comes to giving. It’s easy to feel that we can’t make a difference or we fear where our money may end up. There is a general feeling that our donations might not be grand enough to get anything done.
As much as we may be unsure of giving away our hard-earned money to something we might not fully understand, those of us fortunate enough to be financially secure have an obligation to give.
This is in part because many of us who are secure owe at least some of our good lifestyle to luck. Luck at having been born into the right family; luck to have been blessed with intelligence and opportunity; luck to have the right connections to get ahead; and luck to have been born in this wonderful country.
Through donations of time, skills or money, those of us who are lucky enough to have the advantages necessary to get ahead can create luck for others.
For the past three years, we’ve been encouraging clients and staff to consider donating $500 each to the Geelong Community Foundation’s own collective giving fund, Philanthropy 500. By bringing together the intellectual and emotional (and financial) resources of 200 individuals, we are hopeful that with a $500 donation from all involved, we will be able to provide a high-impact donation of $100,000 to a local community organisation.
We’re not World Vision, and our $100,000 might not house the homeless, but our collective contributions are big enough to provide real hope and real change.
In business, it’s important to remember that if we have the ability to support more than just our clients and employees, then we should. In the financial services profession, our focus is on better outcomes for our clients, helping them to make decisions, relieve stress, and achieve their goals, so it makes sense that we help the broader community, too.
Philanthropic activity is a great way to support our communities and show that the industry is passionate about helping others and supporting change for good. This is even more important lately, given the recent press caused by a few bad apples. We have a responsibility to show that our industry is so much more than that.
I sit on the board of a not-for-profit foundation, Lungitude, and we support this charity by giving our time, financial support and participating in fundraising.
Last year, I ran a marathon in support of Lungitude. As a business, we encourage our team to contribute to the charities they support by matching donations dollar for dollar and providing an additional day of leave to engage in charitable activities.
I see the difference organisations, like Lungitude, make to the people they support, and this is the greatest reward.
But investing in philanthropic endeavours can also have benefits for the firm, such as increased employee morale and brand awareness.