We all need a philanthropic advisor

by Leslie Ann Jackson

I must admit that I don’t play the lottery or keep tabs on it much. When I heard that we had a major winner in North Carolina, though, my curiosity piqued.

All of the typical questions came to me: Who is it? Where is he from? What will she do with her newfound riches? What would I do if it were me?

So, I was glad to stumble upon the big reveal and winner’s initial television press conference.

As this every day man from Cumberland County was surrounded by a throng of reporters and journalists with clicking cameras and whirling microphones and peppering questions, I was struck by what wasn’t being asked.

He got all the expected questions about the numbers he played, what he would do with the winnings, whether he would travel and if he had a financial advisor to help him manage his fresh fortune. (He does.)

But no one asked him if he had a philanthropic advisor.

Why not?

The question about the financial advisor seemed so natural and predictable. The winner was ready with an answer, as though he had already thought about it himself.

If we view a financial advisor as critical to anyone who comes into wealth, why don’t we think similarly about philanthropic advisors?

He did identify a few well-known, national charities he plans to support. And when asked why those specific organizations, he said those are the charities he’s familiar with and that he always told himself he’d give to them if he won. Perfectly fine!

How would you choose? How do you choose now?

Some people support organizations with causes that have some personal meaning for them.

Some people give to organizations that do work they think is important in their communities.

Some people choose organizations that they’ve heard about from friends and family members who may be involved with those organizations somehow.

All good reasons. What might we be missing, though? What else is out there?

Through my role in the Foundation’s grantmaking over the years, I’ve had so many insightful conversations with fundholders about why they choose organizations as grant recipients from their donor-advised or designated funds. Or why their preference was to start a scholarship fund.

Our philanthropic desires hold stories as unique as the voices that tell them.

I’ve had these conversations with some of you already and look forward to finding more in the future. The more we know about what people’s interests are, the more prepared we are to help people meet their philanthropic goals.

Because of my work at the Foundation, my friends and family have grown accustomed to me reminding them to make philanthropic activity part of their annual household budget process. They also often ask me about organizations that might suit their interests. I love to make those connections!

I get to do the same thing at work. Like when a disaster hits in NC, individuals, organizations, and even other foundations without connections to the communities impacted or without experience in disaster relief want to know how they can help. We’re here to provide expertise.

Or when someone wants to know who is providing services in response to the opioid crisis or teacher training or childhood literacy or workforce development in any of our regions in NC, we either know the answer already or can find out in one phone call.

The same principle applies to so many other areas of our work across the state, and we’re actively recommitting ourselves to investing in learning what inspires our generous fundholders and to connecting those interests to the needs of our communities.

That is how NCCF becomes the answer to the question, “Who is your philanthropic advisor?”