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The Trusted Adviser & Giving Circles

Article from Philanthropy Australia

By: Chris Wilson, Founding Committee Member of Impact100Melbourne (a collective giving account of Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation), Koda Capital Partner & Director of the Philanthropy & Social Capital team, Director of The Reach Foundation.


Three years ago I was approached to join the Founding Committee of Impact100Melbourne – a giving circle. At the time I was aware of giving circles and the momentum they were gaining around the world, though I had little concept of their power to not only change my personal perception of philanthropy but to add value to my profession as a trusted adviser.

First up – What is a giving circle? Giving circles are about bringing people together to pool their time, intellect, talent, networks and dollars to create lasting positive impact on their community. Take for example Impact100Melbourne. We aim to raise $100,000 from 100 members to give away as one impactful grant. To date we have given away over $230,000 to local charities. This is all very nice you say. Though what does it have to do with me being a trusted adviser?

Being a trusted adviser is about relationships. The deeper the relationship, the more you know your client, their values and what drives them, the more successful you will be as a trusted adviser.  For many clients what truly motivates them is driven by deeply entrenched social values that have come through personal experience, tragedy or beliefs. Often these traits are personified through community interests/positions, a passion for helping others and philanthropic endeavours. As trusted advisers we don’t always get to see these virtues.


Giving circles offer trusted advisers:

1. Engagement opportunities for your clients

Trusted advisers are expected to provide thought leadership and bring the best ideas to their clients. Giving circles are about exploring the best ideas in philanthropy whilst providing impactful support to the preeminent organisations addressing our communities most pressing needs. Introducing your clients to a giving circle can be a rewarding experience that you can share together.

Trust is built up over time through numerous interactions and experiences between you and your client. Giving circles for many of your clients will represent a profoundly rewarding experience. As members, you and your clients can enjoy this journey together. The ideas, networks and stories you take from being a member of a giving circle are significant, all of which you and your clients can reflect on over time.

As someone who works in philanthropy every day, I have used giving circles as an example of how clients can take their philanthropy beyond a private family environment. They have learnt from others, met interesting people and importantly they have leveraged their dollars to support, grow and encourage philanthropy in the broader community.

2. A chance to learn the philanthropy basics

The best way to learn something is to jump in the deep end and have skin in the game. Many trusted advisers are looking to talk to their clients about philanthropy. Why? Because more clients are looking for advice on giving. In my world of wealth management, many of our clients are becoming as interested in how they use their wealth to create significance as they are about accumulating it. Advisers looking to provide advice on philanthropy need to understand not only the technicalities (e.g. what’s an Item 1 DGR or a TCC?) but the motivations driving people to give. Giving circles are the perfect learning ground, offering the chance to engage in all facets of philanthropy.

3. To interact with next generation clients

An enormous amount of wealth, businesses and corporate leadership positions are in the process of being handed over to a new generation. This generation is heavily represented in the giving circle community. As trusted advisers it is imperative that we are engaging this generation with the understanding that the relationship they desire and the advice they will seek will be vastly different from those that have gone before. They have a desire to do things differently and many of them want to embed their social values in their career, family and community life. They are excited about positively changing their world and they are very excited about doing it their way. Giving circles such as Impact100Melbourne represent a chance for you to introduce an exciting, innovative and engaging opportunity to this new generation.

4. Networking opportunities

Giving circles are about bringing people together from all walks of life. In our giving circle we have young professionals, professors, entrepreneurs, successful business owners, non-profit professionals, renowned philanthropists, business executives and the list goes on… For trusted advisers (especially those less seasoned) networking opportunities are the key to building a successful career. Giving circles offer you an opportunity to build your networks in a rewarding environment.

5. The opportunity to do good, have fun and find your passion

Being involved in Impact100Melbourne has been a phenomenal experience. I’ve met amazing people, I’ve been inspired, I’ve furthered my knowledge, I’ve had a ball and I’ve added value to my clients. Most importantly I’ve positively impacted the city I love.

I hope this article has provided you with motivation to join a giving circle and get your clients involved.

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