Ways to Talk About Giving

We have talked about why you should introduce charitable giving into your conversations with clients, but how can you make this conversation a comfortable one?

In this section we share tips on introducing the topic of charitable giving.


How can you introduce the subject?

  • When drawing or reviewing a will, include the “giving question” as a regular item on your list of issues to discuss with your client.
  • In advance of your meeting, provide your client with a printed list of issues and questions (including charitable giving) to be addressed – this allows your client to consider the idea ahead of time and ensures that the question is not overlooked.

    As an advisor you are eligible to receive free copies of Canada’s two resources to help clients consider giving. These books contain information on strategy, taxation and interesting articles about trends in giving in Canada as well as the listing of Canadian charities where they can do further research on activity, impact and financials.

  •  Introduce the subject in a way that generates a thoughtful rather than reactive response, using one of the following conversation starters:
    • You are so involved in your community as  a volunteer, leader (maybe as a board member of a charity) – why are you involved in this way? Have you considered including these organizations in your estate plan? Do you have a “giving goal” to reach with any organization? (ie. establishing a scholarship or academic chair, being part of a giving society or capital project).
    • For business owners: Often I see clients consider gifts of assets – as a way of sharing good fortune with those who have been less fortunate, or of repaying an organization that has made a difference in their lives, or of helping make our community a better place in the future. There are many tax benefits to business owners that are connected to charitable giving, can I share some of them with you?
    • It would appear that your estate will be substantially reduced by income tax. Charitable giving can reduce that tax burden and benefit both your inheritors and your community. Do you give to causes now that you would like to see continue in the future?
    • Many generous Canadians have significant gifts included in their will but won’t be able to use the tax credits for their estate. Can I show you how you can make some of those gifts in life, benefit from significant tax-savings and see the impact you want to make tomorrow, today?
    • Are you aware of the tax benefits eliminating capital gains payable on the sale of appreciated securities when you gift shares? Do you know about the major tax changes that will make giving private securities and real estate more beneficial after 2016? I can help you plan to have a much greater impact without having to give more.
  • If your client shows interest, but cannot make an immediate decision, include a bequest clause in the Will with blanks to be filled in. When you send your client a draft of the Will, he/she will have a chance to think about the gift and to talk it over with family or other advisors. It may also provide an opportunity for your client to make enquiries about particular charities or to seek information or guidance from the community foundation about local or regional community needs, opportunities and potential beneficiaries.

Ways to talk about philanthropy with your clients

Try to determine your clients’ values and aspirations using the following conversation starters…

  • I know you are very supportive of [organization or program, e.g. , the local soup kitchen, your seniors centre, your alma mater]. Would you like to continue your support through your estate plan?
  • Are you making charitable gifts now that you would like to continue after your death?
  • Have you considered what would happen to your assets if your spouse or children do not survive you? Would you like any of your assets passed on to a charity, rather than to a distant relative?

Expand your clients’ thinking about their legacy to the next generation using the following starters:

  • Do you think your three children would mind getting 30% of your estate rather than 33% if you decided to give 10% to your favorite charities?
  • If your children were to write your epitaph, what would it say about you? Would it match what you would say? What would you like to tell your children or the community about what really matters to you?
  • You could use a quote from Warren Buffett: “Parents should leave children enough money so they would feel they could do anything but not so much that they could do nothing.”
  • The story of Alfred Nobel who the world accidentally thought was dead and in reading his own obituary was deeply offended and developed a plan to create the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Clients can be hesitant to consider charitable gifts because they are afraid they will not have enough assets for a secure retirement. You might discuss how much is needed and open the discussion with the following sentence:
    • If you’re interested, perhaps we could try making your money work better for you in your retirement while also providing for organizations that are important to you. A gift in your Will would also allow you to ensure you have access to your capital in life, and make sure it has charitable impact once you are gone.

For clients unclear of which cause to support

If your clients are interested in including philanthropy in their plans but are unclear about a particular cause you might also ask your client…

  • When you lie awake at night, what do you worry about?
  • What values, activities and organizations contributed to your success?
  • At your funeral, you would like people to say, “She really cared about …”

See our “resources” section on websites and publications where donors can learn about charities both local and national.

Our philanthropic advisors at the community foundation are trained to help with this conversation, a confidential meeting with you and your client could help them distill their philanthropic intentions.


Source: Adapted from a document originally prepared by The Niagara Community Foundation and Huronia Communities Foundation. Updated in 2015 by Paul Nazareth of CanadaHelps and the Canadian Association of Gift Planners. Used with permission.