The UK has recently seen growth in the number of advisors in banks and law firms providing philanthropic advice due to client demand, yet donors do not rate this advice highly and the sector is still far behind the institutionalized approach to philanthropy that exists in the USA. A high proportion of probate professionals in the UK still do not prompt clients to consider gifts to charity in their will and recent independent research has revealed that there is a gulf between, on the one hand, the need for philanthropy advice and, on the other, the provision of such advice by the traditional professions. This can leave many clients struggling to find good advisers to work with on this important area of their affairs.

A clear majority of the UK’s wealthy population want philanthropy advice as part of the services provided by professional advisers, and think their lawyers, accountants and wealth managers could do far more on this front, with particular demand for advice on tax benefits, selection of causes and monitoring the impact of giving.

Yet only a relatively small minority of these report having actually received such advice. And those who have, on average, rate that advice poorly. This is not an encouraging picture. As Andrew Carnegie famously said, “It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place”.

Figuring out who should be providing the philanthropy and social investment advice (and what the triggers for seeking such advice are) can be confusing. For example, in the UK it might come up in discussions with your solicitor about leaving gifts to charities in your will, or perhaps setting up charitable organisations during your lifetime. It might come up with your accountant when discussing tax-efficient giving or tax-relievable social investments. Or, it might be raised with your financial adviser when discussing whether to hold ethically screened or social investments within your portfolio. Add into the mix the great work of community foundations and philanthropy advisers in the not-for-profit space and you’re left with a confusing landscape.

In our view, with philanthropy advice - as with most areas of professional advice - it normally works best when advisers across various disciplines coordinate to provide a more comprehensive and joined-up package. So, if you are seeking better advice on this area in the UK, it can be a very good idea to link your advisers up (if they aren’t already), to get the best outcome. By doing this, you have the best chance of making sure the whole structure works in the optimum way, giving you the most bang for your buck - from tax-efficiency to integration between areas like will planning and investment strategy, to the impact on the underlying causes themselves.

At Bond Dickinson we aim to make things as easy as possible for current and would-be social investors and philanthropists. We provide a ready-made package of philanthropy-related services, with legal, tax and financial planning experts working in tandem.

So perhaps charitable giving is already part of your financial plan, but you want to look at ways of being more strategic. Maybe you are interested in doing more in this area but don’t know where to start. Or maybe you are formally involved with a charity as a trustee and are unsure about whether more integration between your advisers could yield better results for your cause. In such situations, do get in touch to discuss how we can help.

Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP and Bond Dickinson LLP are separate entities.

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