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Focus on philanthropy? There's a designation for that

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Sometimes a new perspective can make all the difference.

Jayne Grimes, CFP, and philanthropic specialist with Wells Fargo Private Bank in Dallas, says she had long "been frustrated by the disconnect between charities and financial advisors."

Kalita Blessing, a wealth manager and principal at Dallas-based Quest Capital Management, says too many wealth managers spend most of their time on the technical aspects of philanthropy and not enough time discussing the broader issues and the social changes clients want to make. As a result, she says, clients are short-changed.

Both hold the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy designation and give high marks to the program for equipping them to more intelligently advise their wealthy clients and families on the larger issues of philanthropy.


The CAP program builds on the large body of financial knowledge planners already have, and adds another layer of expertise, says Phil Cubeta, CAP and the ChFC Wallace chair in philanthropy, who heads up the CAP program at the American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pa. The program enables advisors to distinguish themselves from the competition by not only serving the donor and the donor's family but also helping them achieve a positive impact on the community.

Cubeta says the program is designed to cross all relevant disciplines, making it appropriate for financial advisors, wealth managers, attorneys, CPAs and representatives from nonprofit organizations who work with wealthy people.

"They come together to learn how to collaborate with each other to better serve wealthy families interested in philanthropy and helping their communities," says Cubeta.

The curriculum is separated into three courses consisting of about 10 assignments each. The assignments include courses students can take online.

More CAP study groups are springing up in cities and towns around the country, Cubeta says. At any given time, at least 10 to 15 are in progress.

Since 2003, the program has conferred the masters-level CAP designation on approximately 1,100 professionals, including 185 last year. About two-thirds of those holding the distinction are advisors, with the rest coming from the ranks of gift planners and fund-raisers for not-for-profits.


Both Blessing and Grimes say the CAP program has helped to elevate their conversations about philanthropy with their wealthy and philanthropically-minded clients. "You’re better able to start discussions by asking a client where he or she wants to have maximum impact or what social change he or she wants to make," says Blessing.

Almost equally important, she says, is the connections that she made with other like-minded professionals in the community. "We learn each other’s perspective so we can work better on cases together."

Likewise, Grimes says the CAP program has given her insights into philanthropic planning, enabling her to ask "the right questions to both charities and individual clients and explore the real concerns and opportunities each has."

Bruce W. Fraser is a financial writer in New York and a contributor to Financial Planning magazine.

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