Families Increasingly Concerned About Preserving Donor Intent

Wendy Connett Editor 20 October 2010

Families Increasingly Concerned About Preserving Donor Intent

Families are increasingly concerned about preserving their donor intent.

Families are increasingly concerned about preserving their donor intent, according to Marguerite Griffin, national director of philanthropic services at Northern Trust. They want to make sure that the legacy of their philanthropic intent is carried forward when they are no longer around, she told Family Wealth Report.

To that end some are looking more towards using trusts where they have control over how a foundation is handled.

Others, meanwhile, are choosing not to use a foundation or expecting a foundation not to exist after they are gone.

“There is much more discussion about it,” Griffin said. “The spending down mentality comes from we can do this now rather than waiting.”

Families are looking to pay out more now and have a greater impact. “There is a different perspective on philanthropy than 25 years ago,” said Griffin. “We live in a world where everything is in the present.”

The approach is much more holistic where people want to see results in their lifetime. They are saying “let’s take on a school and focus on that one school and see our dream realized in our lifetime,” Griffin added. 

Natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, have also contributed to this approach.

People are also thinking about philanthropy at a younger age in part due to education at school age and thinking more global and traveling abroad more, she said.

Northern Trust has been working with clients in philanthropy for approximately 125 years. “My team has centralized these practices.”

Griffin is responsible for providing philanthropic services to Northern Trust’s Personal Financial Services clients whose wealth ranges between $5 million-$100 million or more.

Services include administering charitable trusts and private foundations and counseling clients regarding charitable giving and grant-making practices.

Client accounts stay with the relationship manager. “I’m brought in at the consultant level,” Griffin said. She coordinates with colleagues as needed, such as those in the tax group, for example.   

Unlike other firms where philanthropy is segregated into one division Griffin said philanthropic services at Northern Trust is much more focused on program design. 

Clients are typically those who have set up a permanent giving vehicle and want to get the family involved or those who want to set something up. “I take our clients from soup to nuts,” Griffin said.

Griffin said donor advised funds are a big trend now. Clients do not have to file a tax return and there are no costs involved in setting up like with a foundation.

Giving circles are also on the rise. They allow people with philanthropic interests to get together, identify the areas on which they want to focus, bring in experts and pool charitable giving.  

The number of philanthropic advisors on the scene today is far greater than it was 10 years ago. “To say that the numbers have tripled would be an understatement,” Griffin said.

Griffin joined Northern Trust in 1999. Prior to her current role she was a senior trust administrator and relationship manager in the personal trust administration department. She earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law and is a certified trust and financial advisor.


Register for WealthBriefing today

Gain access to regular and exclusive research on the global wealth management sector along with the opportunity to attend industry events such as exclusive invites to Breakfast Briefings and Summits in the major wealth management centres and industry leading awards programmes