10 Questions Every Donor Should Ask Their Wealth Advisor


10 Questions

How to get the most out of your philanthropy.

If you are like many wealthy individuals and families, you look to your wealth advisor or family office for help with charitable giving. But you also seek advice and guidance beyond checkbook donations. You need help selecting the best giving vehicle, such as starting a foundation or donor-advised fund. You want clarity on your philanthropic goals. You want to know if you’re having an impact. You need advice on how to involve your entire family in giving, while instilling a philanthropic legacy for generations to come.

As a donor, your wealth advisor or family office is a potential resource for philanthropic advice. They already understand your financial goals and are helping you implement them. They might be helping you create a family governance structure. If they also bring expertise in philanthropic strategy, they can be an excellent resource to guide charitable giving toward greater impact.

But don’t assume your wealth advisors bring all the philanthropy expertise you need. You need to dig a little deeper than the words on their website to understand how they can help. Here are 10 questions to ask your wealth advisor or family office to understand if and how they can help you get the most out of your philanthropy.

1. What is your experience helping clients with charitable giving? 

While many wealth advisors may be more than willing to help you and offer their advice, they may not have enough experience or wisdom to help you accomplish your goals or increase your impact. You need an advisor who has a previous background in charitable giving so they can advise you accurately.

2. What philanthropy services do you provide?

It is very important to discover what specific philanthropy services your wealth advisor provides. For example, can they help you develop your philanthropic goals and strategy? Can they advise you the best way to have an impact on the cause you care about? Will they help manage risk? Do they offer ongoing advising and will they serve as your philanthropic sounding board? Do they offer programs and workshops to deepen your knowledge? You need a clear picture of the type of support you can expect to receive.

3. What don’t you provide?

Just as important as knowing the services they DO provide is knowing what services they DO NOT provide. Maybe they would be willing to help with strategy and implementation, but aren’t willing to engage the whole family in the philanthropic process.

4. Can you help me develop and implement my philanthropic goals? 

Rather than just writing checks and giving money away, you want to be sure your charitable giving is being allocated in the most impactful way possible. As a high-net worth donor, clarity with your mission, values, vision, and goals can drastically change how you give. If your wealth advisor or family office is willing and able to help you not only develop but implement these strategic goals, they could be an invaluable asset to you along your philanthropic journey.

5. How can I involve family in giving?

Philanthropy can be a powerful way to bring family together and pass on a legacy of giving. Ask your wealth advisor or family office about their experience in involving multiple generations in the giving process.

6. How will I know if my donations make an impact? How can we increase that impact?

Most wealth advisors and family offices assist their clients with the transactions of their giving – such as setting up a donor-advised funds, sending checks, and handling the taxes. Fewer help you determine how you can have a transformational impact on the issues and causes you care about, or how to measure them. Ask them how they can help you understand if your giving is achieving its intended impact.

7. Given my goals, what are the best vehicles for philanthropic giving? 

There are many ways to give. For example, you can issue checks, start a foundation, open a donor-advised fund, set up a charitable remainder trust, or create an LLC. Discuss these options thoroughly with your wealth advisor to understand the pros and cons of each.

8. What are the tax implications?

With all the recent tax changes, your wealth advisor should know how each method of giving will affect your tax deductions before you decide on a vehicle for your giving. They should be able to help you prepare for your tax plan to maximize your deductions and meet your needs.

9. What education, training and resources can you provide?

In addition to helping you with specific giving goals, ask what additional resources they are able to provide to assist you and your entire family to gain greater awareness and knowledge of philanthropy. Do they plan and facilitate family retreats? Do they offer relevant educational content? Do they provide training via workshops, webinars, or podcasts.

10. Can you refer me to other philanthropic advisors if my needs exceed what you can provide?

The last thing you want is a wealth advisor who insists on helping you with a need they have never dealt with before just to keep you as a client. For example, you might decide you want to expand high-quality early childhood education in your community, but don’t know where to begin. Your wealth advisor might not bring the expertise to help you figure that out. That’s fine! Not everyone can do everything. Find out if they would be willing to refer you to someone who can help with your specific needs.

To get the most out of your philanthropy, ask your wealth advisor or family office these 10 questions. If you don’t get satisfactory answers, or you have needs that exceed what they can provide, you might consider retaining a trusted philanthropy advisor who can work with you and your family and collaborate with your wealth advisors to help you navigate your philanthropic journey and develop and implement your philanthropic goals.

If you are interested in working with a trusted advisor, let me know! I have more than 20 years of experience working with philanthropists, donors, foundation leaders and wealth advisors about how to get the most impact out of their charitable giving. A little guidance goes a long way! Schedule a call with me to discuss this in more detail and we’ll get you asking the right questions and changing the world in no time.

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This article was originally written for and published by Forbes.

© 2019 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.

About Kris Putnam-Walkerly


I’m a global philanthropy expert, advisor and award-winning author. I help ultra-high net worth donors, celebrities, foundations and Fortune 500 companies dramatically increase the clarity, speed, impact and joy of their giving. I’m the author of Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders, was named one of “America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers”(along with U2’s Bono!), I write about philanthropy for Forbes.comAlliance MagazineDe Dikke Blauwe and am frequently quoted in leading publications such as BloombergNPRand WSJ.

Whether you are just getting started in philanthropy, want to refresh your giving strategy, or need to catapult yourself to your desired future, I can help. Let’s talk! Call me at +1-800-598-2102 x1, email me at kris@putnam-consulting.com or schedule a call.


Kris has a direct, matter-of-fact style and unquestionable logic when it comes to corporate giving in ways that are efficient, effective and ultimately beneficial for communities and companies alike. She also knows how to explain her ideas clearly and simply in ways that shine through the fog of ‘corporatespeak’. 

Alicia Procello Maddox, President, Avery Dennison Foundation 


Want to learn more? Visit my website to learn how I help funders, access free resources, and read client testimonials.


Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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