Charities of all sorts seek out high-net-worth individuals. Yet even the wealthiest people can’t give to every worthy cause. Often, they turn to financial advisors for guidance.

“The first thing is for clients to figure out what they really care about,” says Don Patrick, managing director at Integrated Financial Group in Atlanta. “Once you know what your passion is, you want to make sure the charities are in fact using these contributions for the cause,” he says.


Although you don’t want clients to be taken in by boiler room operations that use most of what they raise for expenses, you should not just rely on the “overhead rate” to judge a charity. Potential donors should evaluate how a charitable organization is doing from an “effectiveness and impact standpoint,” says Lisa Philp, vice president for strategic philanthropy at the Foundation Center and former head of philanthropic services at JP Morgan Private Bank. Philp says that the percentage of funds raised going to programs is only one of multiple screens that should be considered.

Although she concedes that evaluative information is more difficult to obtain, Philp says that donors have to ask questions like, “Does this after-school program have better outcomes?”

Fortunately, advisors and their clients do have resources to draw upon. Philp says that a number of organizations “provide really good information so that people don’t need to re-invent the wheel.” In addition to the Foundation Center, advisors can check,, the National Center for Family Philanthropy, and the Association of Small Foundations, among others, for helpful information.


After deciding on the charity and how much to give, potential donors have to choose how to give: Cash or appreciated stock? Perhaps a donor-advised fund? Don Patrick sees advantages in the latter. “What I like about them is that you can determine the charities every year,” he says. “And you’re not locked in.”

For those with a potentially large giving agenda, a private family foundation is worth considering. But both Philp and Patrick say you should be looking at $5 million or more in donations to consider that option. “If you’ve got $100,000 to give, there’s no need to do that,” says Philp.

Planners who help HWN clients with their charitable giving must of course consider taxes, as well. But Don Patrick especially enjoys this part of his practice. “This is such a fun thing to be helping clients with,” he says. “It makes everybody feel good.”

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