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CAP program helps advisers help clients explore reasons for giving

By Dian Vujovich
Special to the Daily News

Palm Beach County's first CAP class will conclude July 24. Class members include accountants and tax advisers, lawyers, trust officers, money managers, lawyers and those within the philanthropic and nonprofit arena.

Here's a listing of the firms with participants in the CAP program:

  • Law firms: Akerman Senterfitt; Jones, Foster, Johnston & Stubbs; Gunster; and Shutts & Bowen.
  • Wealth managers and private banks: BNY Mellon; Bernstein Global Wealth Management; J.P. Morgan; Harris Private Bank; Lighthouse Partners; Goldman Sachs; U.S. Trust Bank of American Private Wealth Management; and Donner Financial.
  • LifeBlueprints
  • Certified public accountants: PricewaterhouseCoopers and WTAS.
  • Insurance: My Life Audit and Flah & Co.
  • Philanthropic and nonprofit services: Institute for Women and Wealth
  • Community Foundation of Palm Beach & Martin County
  • Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
  • Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County
  • Florida Atlantic University John D. MacArthur Campus

When it comes to our brains, studies have shown that we are all hard-wired to find pleasure in charitable giving. Making sure our charitable giving needs are met, however, takes the time and talents of professionals.

The Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy designation has three main parts to it:

  • Planning for Impact in the Context of Family Wealth
  • Charitable Strategies
  • Gift Planning in a Nonprofit Context

Once the upcoming season begins, there's a new designation every philanthropically minded individual needs to be made aware of.

It begins with working with an adviser who has earned his or her CAP -- or Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy designation -- and ends with inspiring donors to make their priority that of focusing on giving from the heart to the foundations and charities they truly care about.

Charitable giving is as vital a part of Palm Beach's business and social life as sunny days and cocktail parties. In the United States, there are about 300,000 private foundations; in Palm Beach County, 8,880. And on the tiny island of Palm Beach, each season brings with it literally hundreds of nonprofit events all seeking money from the island's wealthy donors.

"In last year's issue of the Palm Beach Charity Register, there were 85 major fundraising events on the island," says Allison Reckson, executive director of marketing and special events at Palm Beach Media Group. "Those were events from top-tier nonprofits, but there are hundreds of pre- and post- events happening each year like fashion shows, luncheons and events at private homes that don't make it into the register."

But attending galas and balls and opening your wallet to give is one thing. Knowing why you're donating is another. The answer to that "why" is one of the reasons the CAP program was established.


The Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy designation grew out of a realization by philanthropists Sallie B. and William B. Wallace that there was a need for more education and certification in the area of charitable giving.

CAP's primary goal is to ensure that the needs and wishes of philanthropic donors are met, from understanding the appropriate legal and estate planning tools necessary to meet the charitable giving goals of the wealthy to the variety of options available to them for giving.

However, it's the pin symbolizing the CAP program that says the designation's purpose more definitively: a hand with a heart in the center of it.

Those with the CAP designation take the charitable giving process one step further than many within the philanthropic world. They have learned to ask -- and encourage -- donors to focus on their personal reasons for giving. In other words, what's at the heart of their charitable contribution?

Palm Beach CAP group

As you might expect, the CAP program in Palm Beach is a unique one. CAP is designed and offered as an online program through The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., an education college for those in the insurance and financial industries, and approved by the Center on Philanthropy at the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts in Indianapolis.

But all 24 participants in the Palm Beach inaugural program don't use the online program. Instead, they have met one another and gathered together for all classes during the past 12 months.

Camaraderie, coursework

That camaraderie, along with the CAP course work, has forged new professional friendships and respect among class participants.

"We are a room full of CPAs, attorneys, insurance agents and investment professionals who are trusted advisers, serving many of the same clients, learning from one another, and finding out that, among other things, how the philanthropic process can help bring families closer," says Beau Breckenridge, private client manager at U.S. Trust. "We really don't talk about that in university classes focused on banking and the financial industry."

Margaret May Damen, planned giving and endowment officer at the Kravis Center, and Richard Flah, founder and principal of Flah & Co., are facilitators.

Damen is the only person in the group to have achieved a CAP. She earned it 21/2 years ago and was instrumental in bringing the organization to Palm Beach.

While the facilitators' job is to keep the discussion going and structure each session so that all topics are fully discussed, it's what's shared among these professionals that also will help them to be better at their chosen professions going forward. Although Flah is quick to point out that most professionals dealing with the wealthy are aware of the investment tools necessary to meet a client's philanthropic needs, not all investment professionals are comfortable asking their clients specifically about where their passions for giving lie.

"One thing the CAP program is teaching me and all of us is to learn about giving though the eyes of the donor," says Flah. "For the first time, I'm asking my clients questions that I don't already know the answers to."

Listening is key

John Raymond, an attorney at Akerman Senterfitt, elaborates: "Those of us who are in the program have taken the time to learn and discuss all of the options available to donors ... We've learned how to listen carefully to (the donors) and not our own preconceived notions of what we think the donors ought to do."

Ask Raymond what he's learned the most from the CAP experience and his answer is simple: "To listen."

CAP's program teaches professionals to broaden their horizons, to think outside the box when it comes to meeting the gifting needs of their clients. Regarding those needs, the biggest challenges Damen says she has seen donors face after deciding to become a philanthropic giver include: "Not believing that their gift can make a difference. Not taking the time to do all the due diligence necessary to realize the full potential of their gift. And, not listening to their heart."

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