Approaching Philanthropy, Part 1: Finding your “Why”

Why do you want to be involved in philanthropy? Before you commit to giving financial support, donating time and expertise, or creating a charitable entity of your own, we believe it’s wise to think deeply about what drives you. Not only will this help you direct your generosity to the right places, but it will also help sustain you if the going gets tough.

Common reasons “why”

Everyone has their own reasons to be involved in philanthropy, but in our experience, three things stand out.

The most common reason we have observed is personal experience. Often, something has happened to someone, or to their friend or family member, that caused them to get involved. The triggering event could be an illness or disability, something related to mental health or substance abuse, or perhaps a significant encounter with the natural world. Often, it's the passion that arises from an issue close to home that gets us involved in trying to find a solution.

A second reason is family tradition. Sometimes there’s a history of giving back through multiple generations. This is something that can be directed at specific causes that a family is focused on over the years - for example, a school that has produced three generations of doctors. Or maybe it's something based on a family value system, such as giving a younger person the opportunity to volunteer or raise money as a way to learn about charity, compassion and responsibility.

A third reason that we see people engaging in philanthropy is community awareness. They see what's happening in their own city or neighborhood and want to help. For example, the continuing economic fallout from the pandemic has really shone a light on local needs. Clients have told us that they see longer lines of people at churches and community centers seeking basic food and shelter. Many of us see needs like these and want to respond meaningfully.

Some examples to inspire you

In another blog, we describe ways people today are making an impact. Here’s a summary:

When MacKenzie Scott divorced Jeff Bezos, she became one of the world’s few multi-billionaires and decided to be very generous with her wealth. A New York Times article from 2021 said: “In her short career as one of the world’s leading philanthropists, MacKenzie Scott has made a mark through the enormous scale of her giving and also through its speed, donating nearly $4.2 billion of her fortune this year alone.”1

Being a billionaire is not the only way to direct significant financial resources to causes you care about. You may have heard of the concept of Giving Circles or Impact Groups. This is where you have multiple people coming together to concentrate their philanthropic power.

One example of this is called Impact100, which was founded in 2001 to help encourage and expand the role of women in philanthropy. They have chapters across the US and globally and, so far, their members have given more than $123 million to help transform their communities.2 If you’re curious, you can go to their website to find a chapter near you.

Another channel for giving is social media. You may have seen a situation where somebody has run into a financial obstacle such as a health crises or loss of property and used GoFundMe to ask for support. Perhaps you have contributed to one of these campaigns.

GoFundMe is a platform not only for individuals, but also for registered charities. For example, America’s Food Fund, which was launched by Leonardo DiCaprio and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, has raised more than any other campaign on GoFundMe - over $45 million and counting - for people who are struggling to find reliable access to food.3

Your philanthropic path will likely depend on many factors, including your life experiences, your family values, and the needs of your community. It will be shaped by what gives you personal meaning, the amount of time you have available, your unique skillset, your past experiences and your financial resources. A Corient Wealth Advisor can help make sure that your wealth management strategy and estate plan work hand-in-glove with your desire to give.

Others topics in this series:




Lesley Draper, CFP, CTFA

Lesley Draper, CFP, CTFA

Partner, Wealth Advisor

Lesley Draper is a Partner and Wealth Advisor. She is responsible for managing client relationships, advising families and individuals on financial planning, tax planning and investment management. She received her BS from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA). She is currently studying for Charitable Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) designation. She is passionate about giving back and co-chairs RegentAtlantic's Neighborhood Nonprofits team and serves on multiple charitable boards, including P.G. Chambers School and Morristown Festival of Books. Prior to joining RegentAtlantic, Lesley was a Vice President at Citi Private Bank and subsequently spent 11 years at U.S. Trust Company of New York in the Financial Planning and Family Wealth departments. Lesley enjoys golfing, fly fishing and resides in Montclair, NJ with her partner Bob, two German Shepherds and four rescue cats.

James Sonneborn, CFP, CFA, MBA

James Sonneborn, CFP, CFA, MBA

Partner, Wealth Advisor

Jim has over 35 years of experience managing investment portfolios and providing financial advice to individuals, families and charitable organizations in the New York metropolitan region.

As a Wealth Advisor and Co-Chair of the Firm's Neighborhood Nonprofits Group, Jim works with a wide range of clients and has a particular specialty in philanthropic strategies. For donors, Jim works to construct strategies that align with the client's philanthropic goals. In the nonprofit sector, Jim focuses on helping organizations strengthen their financial position through endowment management and planned giving consulting. Jim currently serves on the boards of The Rippel Foundation and the Environmental Endowment of NJ.

Jim holds a BA in Business from Western Colorado University and an MBA in Finance from Drexel University, as well as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, Chartered Financial Analyst and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst certifications.


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