Posted May 1st, 2016

How to Create a Professional Advisors Committee

A well-run Professional Advisors Committee can benefit the charitable organization. Here’s how and why you may wish to have one at your organization.

Over the years, we have seen all sorts of Professional Advisors Committees (PACs) formed to support a variety of planned gift development efforts. Some have worked quite well while others have, in retrospect, been more effort than they were worth. What makes the difference? Read on to learn how your PAC can become a valuable component of your fund development efforts.

What’s the purpose?

In most cases, the members of the Professional Advisors Committee are not expected to solicit gifts on behalf of your organization or institution. Some of their clients may be your donors, and as their advisors they may facilitate gifts in the natural course of their relationship with their clients. Their job is not to do your job for you. In most cases, their primary function may be to provide advice in their area of expertise and to attend occasional meetings as a part of their civic and volunteer responsibilities. In the process, they will learn more about your work and may well become additional positive ambassadors.

Whom should you recruit?

Ideally your Professional Advisors Committee should include a cross-section of advisors, including attorneys, accountants, trust officers, certified financial planners, investment advisors, insurance professionals, real estate professionals and possibly a member of your board.

An initial group should be identified and recruited by you or other senior management in person, where possible, with a follow-up letter of invitation from the president, chairman of the board or vice president of development. The letter should outline the terms of the commitment, the purpose of the committee, the anticipated duties, the frequency of meetings and other relevant considerations.

How often should the PAC meet?

The answer will vary. One very successful PAC holds no regular meetings, just an annual reception. In the meantime, members agree to answer an occasional question or two over the course of the year and receive advance copies of gift planning marketing materials being mailed and emailed. While that is one extreme, you should strongly consider if you or the potential committee members really want to commit to monthly meetings.

Keep in mind the advisors you want to recruit probably already have a variety of professional and volunteer commitments and in some cases they bill on an hourly basis so time really is money for them.

Depending on the circumstances, three to four meetings per year will probably be sufficient and can be scheduled as a breakfast, lunch or late afternoon commitment of approximately one to one-and-a-half hours. Ideally, members will make the effort to attend two to three meetings a year and will benefit from brief educational presentations on gift planning, institutional priorities and professional networking. Plus, they will personally get to know key members of the development staff. They will also have an opportunity to learn about gifts you have received and guidelines for naming opportunities, endowments and other gifts.

Some observations

A well-run Professional Advisors Committee can benefit both the charitable organization and professional advisors who participate. The natural interaction of the development staff and advisors will sometimes result in unexpected gifts even though the group was not recruited to solicit gifts as might be expected of a volunteer in a capital campaign.

In between meetings, let the PAC know about news events and occasionally send them a sample giving guide or other planned gift marketing materials that are being sent to your donors (who are possibly their clients) and ask the occasional insurance, real estate, legal, accounting or financial question that arises.

Finally, consider providing a certificate or plaque suitable for display in their offices. The biggest benefit for the charitable entity is to have a group of professional advisors available as an initial resource when questions arise that may be beyond the fundraiser’s area of expertise. The advisor may not have the complete answer you need but will often clarify the legal, financial, investment, fiduciary or other issues that will require additional research by the institution or others it engages to do so. ■

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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