CICF News / 2010 / April / News Post
April 20, 2010
Advisors Inspiring Philanthropy

by Charles A. Liles, Charles A. Liles & Associates, Inc.

Charles A. Liles, Charles A. Liles & Associates, Inc., is a member of CICF's Professional Advisor Leadership Council.

Who among us isn’t drawn into a story or personal narrative? As children our bedtime wasn’t complete without mom or dad reading a chapter or two from a favorite mystery or an adventure tale. We were pulled into the words and formed vivid mental pictures of the characters, places and actions. Good teachers continued this by encouraging an appreciation of well written books. And, as adults, we still get wrapped-up in a Michener saga or Grisham legal thriller. As advisors, the lure of a good story is a well deserved antidote to a day of fruitful, yet crushing, detail of investment research, the nuances of trusts, the complexity of the tax code, or the multiplicity of life insurance arrangements. Rarely are we afforded the opportunity or privilege to step into our clients’ lives and their own personal narratives to help guide and nurture a relationship during a period of profound family transformation. But, when asked, numbers are shelved temporarily, the green eyeshades removed and the heart opened to meaningful listening and conversation.

I was honored to deepen a long standing client relationship last fall when I was stunned to learn that a young client had died unexpectedly leaving a wife and two young children without a husband and father. This wonderful family is blessed, though, by support from a strong extended family in the Indianapolis area and many good, devoted friends. I’ve helped organize financial matters and provide coaching through the details of the husband’s employer benefits, social security, the wife’s estate plan development, budgeting, insurance reviews and investment planning.

During one of our many conversations, Jane (a/k/a Jane Doe) made a comment in passing about a monetary gift to her children’s school in memory of their dad. This was very heartwarming but I suggested going slowly with this idea and take time to explore with school administrators the needs and areas where a gift could make a meaningful impact as well as be a suitable way to honor a lost loved one. Jane also went on to say how much she wanted her children to grow into a spirit of caring and philanthropy.

As so often happens, the interconnectivity of ideas occurs at unusual moments, this case being no exception. It was in mid-December when Jane’s wishes and the extraordinary mission and capabilities of the Central Indiana Community Foundation came together in one of those “Ah-ha” moments. Jane’s husband had had a successful career at a large company that provides its employees with a well-rounded benefits plan including group life insurance, the continuation of medical benefits for survivors, a defined benefit pension and a 401(k). Consequently, liquidity management and sound investment planning rose to the fore of our attention. Also, since her husband died relatively late in the year, Jane would file a joint tax return with nine months of high salaried income and, possibly, a bonus. Her taxable income for 2010 will fall significantly from 2009.

With her strong sense of philanthropy and demonstrated intent to give, the financial capacity and last year of high taxable income, Jane was an excellent candidate to establish a donor advised fund with CICF. The concept and application of the donor advised fund became much clearer for me after I was invited by Brian Payne and Beverly Brooks-Miller to join PALC a year ago. Jane was intrigued after I described donor advised funds and we immediately called Beverly for an appointment. Though Beverly was unable to meet the day of our scheduled appointment, we had a very informative meeting with Mary Stanley who discussed the history of CICF, the various vehicles for giving and the substantial support the Foundation provides its donors.

Jane knew this was the right thing to do and she opened her family’s donor advised fund the last week of December. The educational, counseling, and operational resources of CICF are second to none and are now available to Jane and her children as they explore and discern ways to honor the memory of their husband and dad and make a transformational impact on institutions in our community.

I encourage fellow advisors to connect charitably inclined clients to CICF’s knowledgeable and compassionate staff and to its depth of philanthropic resources. You will have a gratifying personal and professional experience as well as introduce your clients to a fulfilling new dimension of their lives.