This is the time of year when you should not only be considering your clients' charitable intentions, but also what you may be able to fork over to your favorite organization.
Then again, if your recent paychecks are closely correlating with the performance of the stock markets, no amount of holiday spirit will be enough to offset a temporary lull in your cash flow.
Fear not. Here are some less tangible — but still valuable — ways you can lend a hand to a local charity. Oh, and maybe even improve your business prospects for next year.
Open Up A Stock Account
‘Tis the season for wiser givers to donate highly-appreciated shares of stock to their favorite charity, getting a deduction and avoiding paying capital gains tax in the process.
Those shares are then sold by the charity, which is where you come in. Contact local organizations and offer to not only open an account on their behalf, but transfer in (and sell) any donated shares.
You're likely to get a warm reception — especially if you agree to sell the stock for little or no commission, and alert your current clients that they can use you to start and complete a stock donation to the charity in question.
And the mutual benefits compound if you write an article for the charity's newsletter, explaining how fans of the organization can donate their shares to the charity through you.
Talk To The “Friends”
You can take the previous step to the next level by offering to make a presentation on charitable giving strategies to an audience assembled by the charity.
Don't use this opportunity to promote your own talents and services. Instead, try to concentrate on the donors' need for unbiased information and the charity's craving for cash.
If you can accomplish these goals, in the final step in the process you will find yourself providing specific charitable-giving advice to a well-heeled patron or two, as well as gaining access to their broader financial matters.
Peer Into The Portfolio
All the fundraising efforts in the world will go for naught if the money generated isn't properly invested and managed. Savvy non-profit directors and donors know this, and are keenly sensitive to any sloppy or imprudent financial decisions.
As a result, the powers that be will likely welcome your offer to review the current investment situation to make sure that performance, fees, risk and documentation are all in order.
Provide as fair and balanced a report as you possibly can, noting positives, negatives, and steps that the current provider may want to take to protect the interests of all parties involved.
Offer To Manage The Money
Of course, if you discover that the management of the charity's endowment is substandard and can't be rectified, it's certainly appropriate to submit a proposal detailing how you would handle it differently.
But two moves on your part can protect both your reputation and the charity's interests. First, to avoid the appearance of impropriety, you should recommend that the charity open the process up to any interested providers.
And second, if you are fortunate enough to be awarded the responsibility of managing the charity's funds, set your fees at the lowest possible rate. It's the right thing to do, and the ensuing exposure to board members and big donors should be more than enough to offset the sacrificed revenue.
Look At The Books
It's not unheard of for a non-profit to be staffed by individuals who have compassion, dedication, and commitment to the group's mission. But their business and accounting skills may be not be quite as strong as their other qualities.
If you have either the knowledge, or a CPA who owes you a favor, you could ask if the charity's director would appreciate a quick review of the cash management procedures.
Either their bookkeeping methods will get a reassuring stamp of approval, or the director will be made aware of any flaws in their financial management that can be remedied before the problems get out of hand.
Pro Bono Planning For Employees
Another common characteristic of most charities is that the staff has neither the income nor the assets required to attract the attention of a money expert such as you.
This unfortunate circumstance makes it even more crucial that they get some guidance, and more difficult for their boss to turn down your offer of free financial advice.
You could make a brief group presentation on the fundamentals of financial planning and retirement saving, and then spend the rest of the day in private one-on-one discussions with each interested employee.
Of course, in the process you might find someone who is independently wealthy, but not yet dependent on the services of a particular financial advisor (or at least one as skilled as yourself).
Get On The Phone
It may be quite a while since you made your last “cold call,” probably due to the lack of time and interest you have in making calls, as well as a legislative clamp down on telemarketing by private businesses.
But even if your skills are little rusty, you're probably better skilled at calling people up to ask for money than the typical charity employee or volunteer worker.
So offer to smile and dial on behalf of the charity's fundraising efforts, and the organization will gladly offer a phone, desk, and a list of prospects (much like what you were probably given to start your career as a financial advisor).
In the best-case scenario, you'll raise more money for the charity than you ever could have given on your own. At a bare minimum, you'll be talking about money with likely-wealthy people who share your interest in the charity's mission and future.
Helping charities in the altruistic manner described above will leave them better off, and you warmed by the knowledge that you did what you could for them with what you had.
But don't be surprised if your noble deeds lead to introductions to the potential clients that could make 2009's numbers a substantial improvement over this year's.
In which case, the charities with which you have developed relationships will appreciate you offering something even more vital than your energy and expertise: cold, hard cash.
Kevin McKinley CFP© is Principal/Owner of McKinley Money LLC, an independent registered investment advisor. He is also the author of the book Make Your Kid A Millionaire (Simon & Schuster), and provides speaking and consulting services on family financial planning topics. Find out more at www.advisortipsheet.com