Despite the recession's blow to many portfolios, the downturn hasn't slowed down a Seattle-originated initiative to help financial advisers better guide their clients in philanthropic giving.
"The interest from advisers remains high; the capacity of clients has declined," says Randy Ottinger, president of the Seattle Philanthropic Advisors Network (SPAN), which has added chapters in two stateswith more in the works.
Launched in 2007, SPAN is a networking group for financial advisers, accountants, and others whose clients are interested in giving. The group opened a chapter in Denver shortly after it was founded, and this year started another in New York City. Advisers in Los Angeles and Vancouver, British Columbia, also are said to be interested in launching chapters.
The Seattle chapter has about 100 members, and hosts quarterly luncheons that feature speakers from the philanthropic and advising sectors.
Individual donors form the backbone of American philanthropy. Of the estimated $307.7 billion donated to U.S. charitable causes in 2008, 75 percent came from individuals, according to the Giving USA Foundation.
Wealthy donors often lead fundraising campaigns with gifts that match other donationsso-called "major gifts" generally worth at least $10,000.
Alan Pratt, principal with Pratt Legacy Advisors, in Bellevue, Wash., says most of his clients continue to want to give during the recession. Although Pratt's clients have taken a hit, their portfolios still afford many of them an income healthy enough to make significant donationsas long as their hearts remain attached to causes.
"For the people I work with, it is a matter of conviction, not only mathematics. The passion is still as big as it will ever be," says Pratt, who next April will start his one-year term as president of the Advisors in Philanthropy, an international association of financial service providers who offer giving consulting.
While the recession may not be stamping out giving, it is causing some major donors to rethink the structure of how they make gifts.
Mark Davis, senior vice president with the Seattle office of Citi Private Bank, says investment managers are advising their clients to be more conservative with investments and to cut costs.
As a result, small family foundationsthose with $5 million or lessare being rolled into donor advised funds, charitable giving funds that are managed by third parties.
"Many of these we have seen shifting or terminating their foundation, and opening a donor advised fund," says Davis, who is SPAN's vice president. "They just don't have the burden of administration."
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