Hey Boomers: What's next after you exit your business?

You've had a long and successful career. Maybe you've climbed the ranks to the C-suite or you've built a company from the ground up. You've accomplished so much, but you suspect it's time for the next chapter. Sure golf and travel sounds great, but you aren't quite ready to be put out to pasture. So what's next? 

We work with clients to find an answer to that exact question. We believe that philanthropy can be that next rewarding adventure. 

You have earned so much valuable experience and knowledge from your career... something that most nonprofit and charitable organizations would greatly benefit from. 

The nonprofit industry faces a troubling dilemma. Due to the inability to pay competitive salaries, they cannot attract the much-needed, top talent in from business world. (See Dan Pallotta's TED Talk for more on the misguided ideals that limit nonprofits from making any large-scale global change.) But a non-profit needs the same business skills that a for-profit company needs.

This is where retired executives can play an important role. Serving as advisors, Board Members, volunteers and strategic donors, individuals (retired or not) with valuable business acumen can take a non-profit to the next level. 

But, as Bill Black, certified exit planner, financial expert and host of Exit Coach Radio asked SGS CEO Kate Azar in an interview (full interview below), how does one find a social cause that is really meaningful to them? This is where we come in.

At SGS, we look at a client's past philanthropic activity. Where has our client donated to, volunteered or which Boards do they sit on? Which of these activities have been because a friend or colleagues asked for their contribution and which are because the cause was really meaningful to the individual? 

We also ask about our client's values. What legacy does our client want to leave behind? What values do they want to pass on to their children and grandchildren?

And finally, what keeps our clients up at night? Do they read or watch the news and see an issue that really makes them mad.. or gets them excited? 

These questions help us to get to the core of our client's motivations in philanthropy and help us to match them to a social cause that is meaningful, exciting and in line with our client's values. 

Strategic vs. Checkbook Philanthropy

What is Strategic Philanthropy?

Many people ask me what I mean when I talk about "strategic philanthropy."  There are many varying definitions for the term, including a common association with corporate philanthropy. But when it comes to personal or family philanthropy, being strategic with your philanthropic planning means to do so with design and planning backed by research, specific and measurable goals, indicators of success, all to have a measurable impact. 

I often contrast the concept with what we call "checkbook philanthropy," wherein one gives to causes ad hoc with little further communication or follow up on the part of donor or the nonprofit recipient.  Most of us give small amounts (or maybe large amounts) here and there when a friend or charity makes an appeal. An example of this would be to buy a chocolate bar from a kid outside the grocery store to support his baseball team, sending $20 in response to a charity mailing, or donating to a friend's charity walk. There is nothing wrong with this type of giving, every little bit helps (see President Obama's fundraising campaign!) but this type of giving probably won't be as transformative as one or two larger planned gifts.  Also, this type of giving can often leave a donor feeling unsatisfied as we are left with little feedback as to how our contribution really impacted the cause.  

Another fun phrase in the philanthropist's lexicon is "drive-by philanthropy," a term I borrowed from Attorney John Fraker and his podcast Family Philanthropy Radio.  He describes "drive by philanthropy" as a situation in which a family foundation or donor gives to so many causes that they are really not able to be truly engaged with any cause. 

Charity is just writing checks and not being engaged. Philanthropy, to me, is being engaged, not only with your resources but getting people and yourself really involved and doing things that haven’t been done before.
— Eli Broad

Often, I advise my clients to pick 2-3 causes to engage, as opposed to many, allowing them to make a more significant impact in these issue areas by really delving into the issue and getting to know the cause, and its stakeholders well.  I help my clients find a handful of causes that are important to them.  Together, we explore theories of change and action.  We come up with a personal mission and find partners, nonprofits and charities that align.  We really listen to the players and other important stakeholders and explore how we can best make an impact.  We ask nonprofits and charities what they really need and how our client's time, talent and treasure can be most helpful. We track the results of our client's giving, and tell the story of how their contributions made a difference.  Then we plan for the next year based on what we've learned -- what worked, and what didn't.  This is one of the benefits of strategic philanthropy and, in my opinion, the most effective philanthropy. 

Another benefit of having an annual philanthropic plan, when you get those "drive-by" requests (the ones that you give to out of guilt, rather than genuine interest), you can politely decline, explaining that you already have all your charitable funds committed for this year but you'd be happy to consider the request next year.  Then we can explore whether the cause fits in your personal charitable mission. 

Learn more about how we build a sound philanthropic strategy here

In Honor of Mothers

Mother’s Day: It’s a day to show your appreciation for the woman who raised you.. or to thank the mother of your children. (Seriously guys, if you’re not getting your wife a Mother’s Day gift, you should be. You’ll thank me for this marriage tip — “Happy wife, happy life,” etc.)  

Every year, I am reminded of all that my mother did for me.  She truly made me the woman I am today.  She taught me the value of hard work, independence and education. Being an entrepreneur can be challenging. My mother talks me through the hard days, boosts my confidence when I need it and gives me valuable advice.  She serves as my sounding board, a trusted advisor and my most supportive friend.  She continues to teach me patience and determination.  Most of all, she instilled in me a passion for philanthropy and charity.  Mothers have the hardest and most important job in the world—raising children.  That’s why, in addition to treating my beautiful mother and grandmother to brunch, I like to support family-focused causes in order to honor and support mothers around the world.  Some of my favorites: 

  • National Charity League fosters mother-daughter relationship building through philanthropy and community service. What a great thing to do after that Mother’s Day brunch!  
  • focuses on mother and family related economic security issues such as paid family leave, earned sick days, affordable childcare and childhood nutrition.
  • Healthy Child Healthy World creates educational resources for parents and caregivers so they can make informed decisions to protect the health and development of their children. 
  • Human Options is an Orange County based charity that helps abused women, their children and families rebuild their lives. They work with the community to break the cycle of domestic violence. 
  • Kiva allows people to lend money to low-income and underserved entrepreneurs to start businesses and support their families. You can even buy your Mom a Kiva gift card so she can choose a woman to lend to. I love giving this gift to the person who has everything. 
  • Every Mother Counts supports maternal health programs making pregnancy and childbirth safe for mothers around the world. 

Americans will spend $21.2 billion on Mother’s Day gifts this year. While Mama certainly deserves to be showered with love and appreciation, imagine how less fortunate mothers around the world could be served with just a portion of these funds. 

So tell me, how do you honor your mom, grandmother or other motherly figures in your life on Mother’s Day?  What do you think about including philanthropy in your holiday?  I bet Mom would be proud!