Making the invisible visible: using professional advisors' perceptions to advance planned giving in the community college

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Oriano-Darnall, Angela Joleen

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Over the past twenty years, as funding has declined, community colleges have become much more aggressive in seeking private support.   Yet, collectively they receive less than two percent of all private donations to education.  Planned‐giving programs hold tremendous long‐term promise for helping community colleges to remain viable; however, few community colleges have comprehensive planned‐giving programs.   The practitioner literature suggests that using professional advisors is an important strategy for nonprofits wanting to implement planned‐ giving programs, as professional advisors are in a position to ascertain their clients’ values and interests on charitable giving as part of clients’ total estate planning.  This study explored the role of the advisor in the gift‐planning process. To examine this phenomenon, Interactive Qualitative Analysis (IQA) was utilized to produce a grounded theory in charitable gift planning. Through interviews with sixteen financial advisors and sixteen development professionals, data were collected to determine the factors that compose the role of the advisor in the gift‐ planning process and how these factors are related. A systems representation of the planned‐giving process was developed through the creation and analysis of conceptual mind maps.   This study yielded three major findings:  Advisors view themselves as having two distinct roles in the charitable gift‐planning process, planned giving is a three‐way interaction between the donor‐advisor‐and development professional, and advisors’ charitable values are critical to their raising the issue of charitable giving. The research findings indicate that planned giving is a triangular relationship characterized by complex interactions between the client (donor), the advisor, and the development professional.  The Triad Model of Planned Giving illustrates why understanding the role of the advisor is vital to effectively working with professional advisors, and how advisors’ values impact the system of planned giving.  The resulting model indicates professional advisors’ philanthropic values are critical to their raising the question of philanthropy with their clients.  With this increased understanding development professionals can target their efforts by focusing on those advisors who are most comfortable discussing planned giving with their clients. The research also demonstrates how development professionals can maximize their efforts to impact advisors’ comfort levels with raising the philanthropic question.  Findings from this study indicate the community college, as the community’s preferred learning provider, is well‐positioned, perhaps more than any other type of nonprofit, to forge a link to advisors that raises their awareness of philanthropy – and the community college’s comprehensive mission – ultimately motivating advisors to raise the philanthropic question with prospective donors.