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Do Well, Do Good: The Importance of Giving Back

How giving what you can, when you can helps your community and builds your brand.

Last month we talked about how advisors can build their firm and personal brand. There were several questions you needed to ask yourself to begin to tell your story, starting with, “Who are you?”

As the year draws to a close, many advisors reflect on the past year. As you think about who you are, how you helped your clients and how your firm performed, you may find yourself thinking about what more you can do.

We often talk about financial planning as a profession for the helpers and the givers. It’s also for the growers, those that want to build on their personal and firm brand. There are several ways that giving back can help you grow.

Giving Back

How can you give back? Giving back often requires people to give of their time, their talent and/or their treasure. When we are just starting out, we often don’t have more than our time to give. Eventually, our talent provides a valuable gift we can share with others. We often have more treasure to share as well. Smart financial planners understand the power of compounding, so that treasure—and our ability to share it—grows as we develop!

So, giving back is really an opportunity to give what you can, when you can.

Create Awareness

How did you find your way into this profession? By accident? How much sooner would you have started if you had just known that being a financial planner was a career choice? Creating awareness that this profession exists is not easy, but each of us has a part to play. Talk about what you do, about how you help people. Everywhere you go. To everyone. Yes, be THAT person. Especially to those who have not been exposed to it—except what they see in the media—and help shape a more realistic picture.

  • Go to career days for your children, your nieces and nephews, your client’s children. Volunteer to speak in grade school and high school or boys and girls organizations.
  • Don’t forget about people who have completed school. Talk to people who are changing careers or reentering the workforce after raising a family or being in the military.
  • Use this as an opportunity to expand your network and seek out more diverse connections. Talk to students at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) or MSIs (Minority Serving Institutions).
  • Volunteer in your local FPA, NAPFA or IWI chapter and become an ambassador for this career. If you are a CFP, you can apply to become a CFP Pro, or a CFP Advocate and share your story.
  • Create social media content that can reach beyond your clients. Start a blog or podcast to talk about financial education. We need to also help potential clients understand that financial planning is good for their well-being. And it’s not just for the rich and famous.

Power of Pro Bono

Many planners chose this profession to help people. You do that every day when you show your clients a path toward a comfortable retirement, their dream vacation home, the smarter education choice for their children and grandchildren. Now imagine helping people who never dreamed they could collaborate with a financial planner to help them achieve their dreams. Think about the family who has a child facing cancer, a military veteran adjusting to life with an injury or new profession, or a survivor of domestic violence, all looking to build their future. That’s where the power of pro bono comes in. Providing pro bono expertise is one of the qualities that makes us a profession. You can become a more empathetic advisor because you are helping people who may have quite different situations from your existing clients. There are many opportunities to give back, including long- and short-term commitments, virtual and in-person. I have the honor of chairing the Foundation for Financial Planning, which partners with nonprofits to provide opportunities for pro bono advice, so I’m biased, but you can also work with your FPA and NAPFA chapters and your local community to find opportunities

Build Your Community

No one can do this all alone. The best way to help build your brand and capabilities is to spend time with other planners. Especially if you are new to the profession, it’s important to hear from those who have gone down this path before. Three ways you can become part of the community:

  1. Get involved with an association. The FPA, FPA NexGen, NAPFA and NAPFA Genesis provide opportunities for you to network, understand the ever-changing regulatory environment, and learn how the profession works and grows. There are leadership development possibilities and being active in the financial planning community will grow the power of your network as well.
  2. Mentor others and be open to being mentored. Talk about your career story, and don’t gloss over the failures, which can provide guidance to mentees as they forge their own paths. Be there for motivation and developmental needs and tap into your own network to help mentees further grow. While you’re at it, talk to that network about helping you with a challenge you are facing.
  3. Start a study group with planners you met at a conference, or through your alumni group. Building a like-minded team of learners can help you continue to hone your skills. By sharing ideas and challenges, and giving advice and support to each other, members will all grow stronger.

As 2021 closes, let us all reflect on how lucky we are, and how much we each have to give back - to our clients, our community, and our profession. Giving back allows you to continually enhance your brand’s “Who are you?” value proposition – and help others at the same time.

Kate Healy is a financial services industry executive and NextGen advocate, focused on building brands.

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