What is a philanthropic advisor?

As I embark on this new endeavor of establishing a philanthropic consulting practice, many friends and acquaintances have asked, “I understand what a consultant does, but what exactly is a philanthropic consultant?” Good question, but the underlying question is really, “What is philanthropy?”

My answer would be that philanthropy means different things to different people. Assisting families and foundations in defining what philanthropy means to them and developing strategies to create the philanthropic legacy they imagine is exactly why I have founded Judson Advisory Group LLC.

In a literal sense, philanthropy means “love of mankind,” but how that is manifested is driven by an individual’s, family’s, or organization’s unique values. Out of these grow goals and priorities and from there strategies and tactics. My goal is to help facilitate conversations that help donors articulate what impact they seek to have on the world, whether that world is defined by geography, issue area, or a specific population.

Once the desired impact has been identified, a different type of work begins to determine the most effective philanthropic giving vehicle(s) and methods to achieve the intended outcomes. In the not-so- distant past, many considered the philanthropic sector to be limited to entities classified as private foundations. But that is a tax classification, not a functional definition. Over time, the sector has invited philanthropic individuals, advisors to donor-advised funds, giving circles, and others “into the tent” and embraced the diversity of tactics available to facilitate the expression of love for mankind.

I learned a lesson about philanthropists coming in all forms within my own home. When I first went to work for a family foundation, my daughter was 10 years old. I had explained to her that I was working with a family who had more money than they needed and wanted to share it with others who needed it more than they. Soon after, she lost a tooth. When I sleepily staggered into her room in the middle of the night to retrieve the tooth, I found a note under her pillow instead. It instructed the tooth fairy to give the money intended for my daughter’s tooth to a child who needed it more than she. This tooth fairy was very proud and has never forgotten the lesson that it is never too early to begin these conversations with the next generation.