Please find below a post I had written for the Give2Asia Forum about the AiP conference.
From April 22 to 24, the International Advisors in Philanthropy (AiP) annual conference was held in Chicago. The event brought together advisors from the nonprofit and for-profit fields to discuss the latest trends in philanthropy. I attended the event because I wanted to meet and learn from others who were working with families and involving the next generation in their philanthropic decision-making. This was important for me because more and more Asian American families are working through issues of passing on wealth and values to the next generation. Philanthropy plays a critical role in many of these conversations. At Give2Asia, we are beginning to explore how we can be of assistance to these families and what role we should play.
Profile of a typical advisor in philanthropy
I have always wondered who considered themselves to be “philanthropy advisors,” what services they provided, what the context of their work was and how they evaluate their success. This year, AiP hired Thomas E. Backer, Ph.D. of Human Interaction Research Institute to conduct the first annual AiP member survey. He found that a typical AiP member:
(1) Spends half to two-thirds of their time serving clients directly, but only about 10% total work time focused specifically on clients’ philanthropic needs.
(2) Collaborate with others and sees “successfully orienting the donor or family to what is important to them in being philanthropy” as the most important indicator of successful advising.
(3) Find that success is measured by informal discussions with clients.
(4) Relies on books and articles for developing professional skills.
(5) The Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) program was cited as “the most important credential an advisor can have.”
Engaging the next generation of givers
Mary Galeti of the Tecovas Foundation spoke about engaging the next generation of givers. Mary is 27 years old and through several unfortunate events in the family, found herself sitting on the family foundation board with many of her siblings and cousins. A majority of the board was under 30 years old. Mary was open and frank about the issues that her family had to struggle with - not just with family business but also with the family foundation.
Mary then asked the audience what characteristics would describe the millennial generation. The audience of advisors averaged the age of fifty or more. It was clear that many in the audience was not able to identify with the traits that Mary listed:
(1) They want a balance of life.
(2) Millennials care about impact and many are consultants and have MBAs so they understand measurement and analysis well.
(3) They communicate using Facebook and Twitter.
(4) They want instantaneous answers and cannot understand why things can’t happen.
(5) Millennials have a sense of entitlement; they don’t understand why they shouldn’t since everything was easily available.
(6) They have a global perspective. It seemed the key is open communication and Mary suggested that instead of heading down the road of “why I can’t do something because you never let me” to encouraging the use of descriptive language. For example, to start sentences with “I feel” or “I hear that you are saying...”
These are very interesting conversations for me to hear because I wonder whether the Asian American community struggles or will struggle with the same issues. Our community is composed of many immigrant families and as they have acquired wealth and success, how will they pass these values to the next generation? How will they communicate and involve the next generation in their philanthropic decision-making? How much control are the parents or older generation willing to share with the next generation? Most important, how do we prepare the next generation to receive these responsibilities?
Behind the conference sessions
Conferences provide a face-to-face venue to network and share experiences with others that are beyond the conference sessions. While conference fees, airline tickets and hotel stays can quickly add up, I am an avid believer that inspiration and collaboration happens outside the office. To be in the philanthropy field means that you have to meet others where they work - whether at events or a visit to organizations doing work on the ground.
Breakfast, coffee breaks and dinners allow opportunities to meet new people and say hello to old friends across the coast that I only see once a year. As much as I enjoy certain sessions and appreciate the time the organizers and speakers put into the event, I feel that my take-aways mostly come during these networking opportunities. I met other advisors in the field (even one from Australia) and left with a list of books and leaders to contact. My conference highlight was the last hour of the conference when I had the opportunity to meet with my mentor, Phil Cubeta, professor at the American College and leader of the Charter Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) program. It is nice to receive feedback, reassurance and inspiration that the work you are doing is necessary and you are on the right track.