Advisors: Do your high-net-worth clients’ charitable contributions build a family legacy?

December 14, 2017

Linking charitable giving to shared family goals is the first step to a lasting legacy

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — As the charitable giving season nears its end, chances are a good number of high-net-worth investors have already finalized their decisions. The question is how much of these allocations are based on a giving strategy that reflects their family’s shared purpose and philanthropic passions?

A new paper by BNY Mellon’s Pershing, “The Charitable Choice: Powering Better Wealth Planning Through Family Unity and Shared Goals,” offers important insights on how families can build and foster a giving strategy that brings them together, helps them build a legacy and prepare for a successful transfer of wealth between generations.

“There’s a connection between well-being and finding purpose,” says Katie Swain, Director of Financial Solutions at BNY Mellon’s Pershing. “Families that are dedicated to a shared purpose can also better preserve and perpetuate wealth. Charitable giving is not about just distributing funds, but thinking long-term about the legacy and impact of a family. Advisors have a tremendous role in helping families think strategically about charitable giving and identify where they can make the most impact.”

For any charitable giving strategy to take a foothold, families must agree on a shared vision, which can be challenging. In fact, in some cases, the role of the advisor in developing a charitable giving strategy may need to go beyond just an investment professional: “The advisor—when necessary—must be able to take the role of therapist and focus more on listening and facilitating versus speaking and teaching to help families come to a united vision,” says Swain.

The paper highlights a few other key considerations for advisors looking to work with high-net-worth families to develop a giving strategy:

Start with the “why”: The “why” refers to the self-introspection that should take place before making any important financial decision. Sample questions to help advisors to start this conversation include:

  • What organizations do you support?
  • What led you to get involved with the organizations/causes you currently support, and what do you hope to achieve through your contributions?
  • How do your charitable goals coordinate with your life insurance and estate plan?
  • How would you like your children and grandchildren to continue this tradition?

Bring the children in: Any long-term giving strategy needs to involve children and have their full buy in. While some families try to push their charitable giving strategy to the next generation, real ownership by the children will only occur if they are an active part of the strategy development. Advisors must incorporate creative “pull” strategies into their toolbox to make the children part of the process.

Treat giving like a business: It’s important for families to treat charitable giving as part of their family business. It is not unusual for high-net-worth families to host charitable-giving business meetings where they discuss shared goals and plans. And if in-person meetings are not feasible, new communications technologies are there to help. Advisors play an important role in developing a plan and strategy for high-net-worth families to manage these gatherings and communications so they can achieve desired goals.

“Developing and implementing a shared charitable-giving strategy can lead to a sense of unity and purpose among all high-net-worth family members,” adds Swain. “Further, it can increase families’ trust in and reliance on their advisors, leading to deeper and longer-term relationships.”

To download a copy of “The Charitable Choice: Powering Better Wealth Planning Through Family Unity and Shared Goals,” please visit:

About BNY Mellon's Pershing

BNY Mellon’s Pershing is a leading provider of clearing and custody services. We are uniquely positioned to help complex financial services firms transform their businesses, drive growth, maximize efficiency, and manage risk and regulation.

Wealth management and institutional firms outsource to us for trading and settlement services, investment solutions, bank and brokerage custody, middle and back office support, data insights, and business consulting.

Pershing brings together high-touch service, an open digital platform and the BNY Mellon enterprise to deliver a differentiated experience for every client.

Pershing LLC (member FINRA, NYSE, SIPC) is a BNY Mellon company. With offices around the world, Pershing has over $2 trillion in assets and millions of investor accounts. Pershing affiliates include Albridge Solutions, Inc. and Lockwood Advisors, Inc., an investment adviser registered in the United States under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Additional information is available on, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter @Pershing.

About BNY Mellon

BNY Mellon is a global investments company dedicated to helping its clients manage and service their financial assets throughout the investment lifecycle. Whether providing financial services for institutions, corporations or individual investors, BNY Mellon delivers informed investment and wealth management and investment services in 35 countries. As of June 30, 2021, BNY Mellon had $45.0 trillion in assets under custody and/or administration, and $2.3 trillion in assets under management. BNY Mellon can act as a single point of contact for clients looking to create, trade, hold, manage, service, distribute or restructure investments. BNY Mellon is the corporate brand of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation (NYSE: BK).Additional information is available on Follow us on Twitter @BNYMellon or visit our newsroom at for the latest company news.