Strengthening client relationships through philanthropy: Australian Unity Trustees

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Raising the idea of philanthropy with clients can result in stronger client relationships, and can provide better outcomes for charities as well, says Emma Sakellaris, executive general manager of Australian Unity Trustees.

“Particularly at this time of year, the thoughts of many turn to those less fortunate. While one-off gifts certainly help provide for those less fortunate, what they don’t do is provide a sustainable solution to the hardships your clients are seeking to relieve.

“All charities depend on donations and are very appreciative of them.  However it is regular, recurring giving that provides the most benefit.

“Charities can confidently implement longer term projects if they know that they are going to receive regular funds. Additionally they don’t need to use precious funds and resources for fundraising projects and activities, so a much greater portion of funds can be directed to community members in need.”

“The simplest and most effective way to undertake recurring giving is through ‘structured giving’, via the establishment of a charitable trust.

“Unlike ad hoc donations or even recurring donations, charitable trusts are designed to grow capital over time, whilst generating sustainable income for granting.”

Ms Sakellaris says despite common misconceptions, charitable trusts are not only for wealthy Australians.

“A trust can be established with an initial donation of $20,000. While this may seem a reasonable amount, deductions from the initial donation can be spread over five years, and all subsequent donations made to the trust are tax deductible.

“The donor, family and friends can donate to the trust, which will further grow the capital and therefore further grow the income generated for distribution to eligible charities.

“For planners, Christmas is an ideal time to raise the topic of charitable giving with your clients. You may be surprised by how many have charitable intentions and you can assist them to establish a structured trust, which will directly support causes and projects which are meaningful to them.

“The festive season also offers the opportunity for your clients to come together with family members and perhaps discuss the potential to further connect with their communities and to those needing assistance and support.”

She says many philanthropists like to involve family members, often across multiple generations, in their charitable giving and find this deeply rewarding.

“Additionally, instilling the idea of helping those less fortunate with grandchildren at an early age can be an enjoyable and fulfilling family endeavour.

“Our experience is that advisers who raise philanthropy with their clients during this period, find that strengthened client relationships ensue.

“What better way for you to better understand a client’s philanthropic intentions, further strengthen your trusted relationship, and establish long-lasting relationships across multiple generations, many of whom may choose to maintain and grow the charitable trust well after the original donor passes,” she said.

Australian Unity Trustees was established earlier this year to provide a range of trustee services to all Australians including: estate planning; executor appointments and estate administration; financial attorney; financial and legal administration; and the establishment and management of personal, native title, community and charitable trusts. It is the first traditional trustee financial services licence issued since the establishment of a national licensing framework for traditional trustee activities.