Recently, the International Association of Advisors in Philanthropy held their national conference in Washington, D.C., from May 22 through May 24. I have always considered it very important for professionals of any kind to continue professional development by attending conferences and outside events to help them broaden their knowledge, hone their skills, and become more effective and impactful. In attending the annual conference in Washington, D.C., I was not disappointed! I came away with three major reflections that are certainly worth sharing. These are:

  1. The increasing breath and complexity of the philanthropic sector;
  2. The need to reach out, engage, and collaborate through trusting relationships to truly make a difference;
  3. Giving as a way to transform individuals, families, communities, and our nation for the better, to make a real impact, and bring meaning to our lives in the process.

Let me further explain these three reflections.

Philanthropy’s Increasing Scope and Complexity

First off, let me clarify that a philanthropist is anyone that has a giving heart who reaches out, gives of themselves, and tries to make a difference. It is not what the media portrays as being money centric. For we are each a philanthropist in our own unique way if we care about something other than self. With this philanthropic clarification, the AIP conference was extremely valuable, the varied sessions were worthwhile, and included a wide range of topics from multigenerational family philanthropy to venture philanthropy to the philanthropic conversation to social enterprise and the technical aspects of philanthropic giving.

Because of the increasing complexity of philanthropic giving, it was reinforced to me that for giving to be effective, meaningful, and impactful, there is a strong need for the emerging profession of philanthropic advising or personal philanthropic coaching. Most of the traditional advisors, CPAs, estate attorneys, or financial/wealth advisors typically have limited knowledge of philanthropic giving. Let’s look at the medical profession for a good analogy in this regard. A patient has a family physician and if there is a more specialized need for medical care, the family physician refers the patient to a medical specialist--whether that be for a heart scan or some other medical testing. Effective and impactful philanthropic giving is absolutely becoming a more specialized profession and there is a need for more philanthropic coaches trained and educated to help donors navigate the increasing complexity of their philanthropic giving.

The Importance of Professional Relationships

Most of us are familiar with the traditional "3 T's"—our time, treasure, and talents—as part of our giving wheelhouse or the uniqueness that we each bring as "giving hearts." One of the primary gifts that we all have that we typically overlook and do not recognize as being important is the trusted relationships we all have. These trusted relationships serve as a tool in our individual "toolkit for giving."

As a philanthropy coach, I recognize the importance of these giving of trusted relationships and attended the conference with an intent to reach out, engage with, and learn from philanthropic advisors from across this great land. Those in attendance included philanthropic consultants, nonprofit professionals from all kinds of organizations, professional advisors such as attorneys, wealth advisors, CPAs, and donors from various generations. I was not disappointed in my engagement with others at the conference. The networking exceeded all my expectations and re-emphasized the importance for each of us to understand and embrace the opportunity to build relationships with other professionals. As we continue our life journey, we can bring these trusted relationships to the table as added value in terms of our own resourcing and relationship connections. This was one of the main take-aways from this conference and I now feel that I have an expanded group of resources from which to seek out even more specialized expertise.

Philanthropy’s Importance in our Future

One of the main highlights of the conference was the "Celebration of Philanthropy in America” dinner event sponsored by CAF America, a global grant-making nonprofit organization that is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The reception and dinner were held at the National Archives where the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the other national archives are kept. As we ate dinner next to the rotunda that housed these sacred documents that have served as the guiding foundation for our country for more than 200 years, I could not help but reflect on the role that we each serve in preserving and celebrating all the freedoms we all hold so dear. I thought how we each give so generously to our families, our local communities or our country. “We the people"—both individually and collectively—have the opportunity and responsibility to transcend ourselves and use our own unique giving gifts to better the lives of others, our communities, and our nation. It is through our "giving hearts" that we can bring our own passions and resources to the forefront to make a difference, bring meaning to our lives, transform the lives of others, and better our communities.

On a personal note, I find myself with an increased purpose and meaning so that I can help others transcend themselves to give and become more effective at using their own unique skills and talents, their time, their financial resources, and their trusted relationships to make an impact in whatever is important to them. For you see, it is through our individual and collective philanthropic giving—using both traditional and leading-edge philanthropic tools and techniques— that we can make the changes we would like to see. We have a great opportunity before all of us, no matter your age, so stay tuned to make a difference.

Let’s do some good!


Coming Next:The 7 Essential Questions for Smart Giving


©2019 Aspire to Give®. All Rights Reserved. Greg Doepke is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® and a Certified Financial Planner®. Greg serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Advisors in Philanthropy and as the Philanthropist in Residence at Auburn University’s Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies. As the founder of Aspire to Give® Greg educates and equips individuals, families, business owners, and foundations with both traditional and leading-edge philanthropic tools and techniques for smart, meaningful, and impactful giving. You can contact Greg at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Disclosure: Greg Doepke is the founder and principal of Aspire to Give®, a social enterprise that donates 100% of all profits to charity and is dedicated to unleashing the human spirit to advance philanthropy through donor education, social innovation, collaboration, and advocacy.
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are not representative of the views of ACG Advisory Services, Inc. or the Actuarial Consulting Group, Inc. of Midlothian, Virginia. Each client and prospective client agrees, as a condition of precedent to his/her/its access to Aspire to Give®’s website to release and hold harmless ACG Advisory Services, Inc. and Actuarial Consulting Group, Inc., their officers, directors, owners, employees, and agents from any and all adverse consequences resulting from any of his/her/its actions and/or omissions which are independent of his/her/its receipt of personalized advice from Aspire to Give® or Gregory W. Doepke.