As strategies for charitable giving become more sophisticated, planners are turning to third-party software to help determine the best fit for each client's situation.

Crescendo Interactive, Leimberg & LeClair, and PG Calc all offer software tools specifically designed to help advisors with charitable planning. Other software, from companies such as SunGard Financial Systems and Brentmark Software, bundle charitable planning functionality with more general financial and estate-planning capabilities.

Michael Repak, vice president and senior estate planner at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, says that he enlists the help of a colleague at Janney's parent company, Penn Mutual Life Insurance, when a client is interested in sophisticated charitable giving. That colleague uses Crescendo Pro to model the impact of various gifts and determine such things as discount factors and likely rates of return over a number of years. The software helps the firm generate the more detailed schedules sometimes requested by attorneys and accountants.

"The math is just beyond what you could possibly do in your head," Repak says. "At times you need software to help you determine whether a particular strategy is good for the client, and if it is a good idea, how good of an idea is it."

Walt Mozdzer, CFP, with Syverson Strege in Des Moines, Iowa, says that his firm uses three software products: Crescendo, for illustrations of charitable gift annuities; Leimberg's NumberCruncher, for testing and developing strategies for the firm's new clients; and PG Calc for “deep dives.” His firm recently used PG Calc to help with a new design for a charitable lead annuity trust.

Repak notes that some of the calculations done by financial planning software can be done with less sophisticated tools. But, he says, "If you want to produce a client-ready presentation quickly, having a package like Crescendo Pro available can easily pay for itself in the efficiencies it creates."

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a writer in Running Springs, Calif. She's contributed to American Banker, Risk & Insurance and Human Resource Executive.