Beeston’s Blog: “To Guide Conversations on Philanthropy Start with Curiosity

We regularly feature blogs by Philanthropy Advisor and author, Emma Beeston, and Sarah Taragon and Stephen Woollett of Clarity CIC.

Today’s blogs is provided by Emma and is entitled “To guide conversations on philanthropy start with curiosity“, which also acts as sound advice for anyone working in the field of fundraising.

“To guide conversations on philanthropy start with curiosity”

“When my Dad was living at home with dementia we bought him an Alexa. Our thinking was that this would be a really useful way for him to get the answers he wanted to questions he asked again and again: what time is it? what day is it? without wearing out the patience of his carers, family and friends. But he was a professor whose whole life was about enquiry, so of course he did not do that. He was curious about Alexa and wanted to know what ‘she’ thought of the news and if she had ever been to the country in the headlines? Needless to say we got rid of Alexa – she was good at information but not the art of conversation.

“The importance of curiosity that my Dad instilled in me is put to good use in my philanthropy advising practice. I use questions as a tool to explore my client’s motivations, aspirations, worries, priorities, assumptions, beliefs and values. These initial conversations are a joy –when I get to know who my client is and what matters to them. Questions are also crucial in working out how I can support (and challenge) them to come up with the best way forward with their philanthropy. To skip this part would be offering my solutions without knowing whether or not they will be a good fit for my client. I would be missing the importance of getting to the heart of things: hopes, dreams, fears, and ideas about purpose and legacy.

“Two recent reports (Onward’s Giving Back Better and Pro Bono Economics’ Ragged patchwork) have recommended training for financial advisors to enable them to be able to talk about and advise on philanthropy. This is one step in encouraging more giving in the UK – a prize where significant additional funding could be unlocked and directed to charities and other good causes. There are all sorts of barriers that stop financial advisors talking about philanthropy one of which is the fear of raising a topic you are not an expert in. I welcome the push to provide more knowledge and training in philanthropy and how to talk about it. Perhaps what is also needed is a shift in mindset – instead of starting with a desire to know all the answers before broaching the subject for advisors to start with curiosity. Faced with a client asking what they should do to help in a global polycrisis of interconnected issues (the climate crisis, issues of social justice, immediate needs and systemic problems) it is impossible to have an answer right away. Starting with curiosity – about your client and how they might make a difference in the world – will open up more meaningful conversations, deepen relations and allow both client and advisor to explore possible answers together. As with Alexa, philanthropists are not just looking for answers but a relationship and guided conversations on their journey.”

Image: Philanthropy Advisor and author, Emma Beeston of the Emma Beeston Consultancy.
As a vastly experienced Grants Manager and Philanthropy Advisor, Emma can help individuals and
organisations through all the options available so that you can allocate your resources wisely. You
cam read more of Emma’s blogs on the
Insight’ page of her website. Her book “Advising Philanthropists:
Principles and Practice“, which is available via the
Directory of Social Change, is a fantastic read
for anyone interested in philanthropy and funding.