Practical Tips to Help Your Clients Set Charitable Goals

We all have a finite amount of time, energy, and resources. That’s why prioritization is important for your clients—whether it’s prioritizing their errands on a Saturday afternoon or their annual charitable gifts.

Helping individuals, families, and businesses set priorities for their charitable giving is one of the most important services that my colleagues and I provide at The Minneapolis Foundation. There is no such thing as a bad donation, but with clarity and intention, generous people often find that they can make gifts that have greater meaning for them.

At The Minneapolis Foundation, I often work with donors who have been referred to me by their financial advisor, their estate planning attorney, or another member of their professional “team.” When I first meet with donors, one of the first things I do is work with them to assess what they’ve been doing through their philanthropy. What organizations have they been supporting and why? Are there certain communities or issues that have been thematic throughout their giving? Once I have better idea of where they have been, I help them identify opportunities and establish goals and long-term priorities for the future.

The value of these conversations is hard to overstate—and you can have them with your clients, too!

Here are six practical tips to help you start the conversation about philanthropy:

  1. Don’t hesitate to ask!
    Many of your clients already give to charity. Asking about their giving is a great opportunity to learn more about their interests and personal values. I often hear from professional advisors that talking about philanthropy helps them deepen their relationships with clients. (Tip: Ask clients, “What was your most meaningful gift, and why?” Asking “why” questions can help move the conversation about a charitable gift from the transaction to the purpose behind it.)
  2. Encourage your clients to look at the big picture.
    Many people give to charity for a simple reason: Someone has asked them to make a donation. Flip that equation by inviting your clients to step back and think about the causes they’re most passionate about. If they had the power to fix one community or global problem, what would it be? What type of legacy would they like to leave behind? (In other words, how do they want to be remembered by friends and loved ones?) Oddly enough, having this conversation often makes people realize that their charitable contributions don’t align with their aspirations as closely as they’d like.
  3. Help them set a budget.
    Encouraging your clients to make a budget is a great way to bring greater focus to their charitable giving, helping them clarify which causes are most important to them. (Tip: Many people like to set aside a certain portion of their budget for incidental “asks” from friends, such as the neighbor kid raising money for his band trip or the co-worker training for a three-day cancer walk.)
  4. Learn about the options.
    Establishing a Donor Advised Fund or other charitable fund can help many individuals, families, and businesses make their giving go further—not only by reducing their tax liability and making it easy for them to gift a variety of assets, but also by giving them time and space to create a thoughtful, strategic plan for their giving. Learn more about the benefits of the various charitable funds that are available here.
  5. Don’t wait until December.
    It’s all too easy for clients to leave their charitable giving until the end of the year. By proactively talking with your clients about their philanthropy earlier in the year, you can help them give with passion and purpose—and head off the last-minute scramble to write checks and settle business at year’s end. (Tip: A Donor Advised Fund is a great vehicle for keeping your clients’ giving organized and efficient, all year round.)
  6. Team up for success.
    Charitable giving can be complex. A community foundation such as The Minneapolis Foundation is staffed with Philanthropic Advisors who will be your partner in making it simple for your clients (and you!) to:

    • Set up a Donor Advised Fund or execute much more complex philanthropic transactions
    • Manage charitable goals throughout the year
    • Make giving decisions that are informed and strategic
    • Be more mindful of how their legacy is brought to life through their philanthropy

Team up with a Philanthropic Advisor today. Contact me at 612-672-3824 or at

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