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May 22, 2018

What can I learn from celebrity philanthropists when planning my own giving strategy?

When it comes to philanthropy, you have more in common with the biggest stars in sports and entertainment than you may think. I have the distinct pleasure of working with these exceptionally talented people, and I can assure you that their inventive approach to giving, in addition to being instructive, can be inspiring.

Let’s begin with something all successful people have in common: Everyone starts their career as a rookie.

Yes, they were that kid shooting baskets on a neighborhood court who seemed to float on air. They were also the kid laughed at for envisioning a machine that would link everyone on the planet. Or the kid who got three mates together and changed music forever. Or the kid in the high school play who had already written an Oscar acceptance speech—and given it multiple times to the bedroom mirror.

And then, lo and behold, their dreams came true—with plenty of work, of course! Professional athletes get what we call the “second contract”—that is, the one that can make them financially secure over not only their own lifetimes but also those of their loved ones. Celebrities in entertainment get “discovered,” and along with that they get a very big “second contract” and sometimes a career that lasts longer than that of most professional athletes.

And I am guessing that each of you has had a “second contract” moment of your own.

There was the day when your business signed a client that catapulted you from a rookie to a star, or when you got that no-one’s-stopping-me-now corporate promotion, and suddenly, just like that, your dream came true. And now, like those scions of SportsCenter and Entertainment Tonight, you are asking yourself:

How can I give back? How can I share my good fortune? How can I help? I can tell you from experience, that for those stars and for people like yourself, it is a moment of elation, but confounding, too. You want to give, but where do you even begin?

For many of our celebrity clients, their philanthropy starting point has roots in their “rookie” days. Early in their careers, many helped with their communities or social justice causes, but all they could contribute then was their time. Then, as they become financially secure, they can use their fame to further that cause for which they still have a passion. And while you may not share their fame, you share their ability to give and desire to give. So where and how do you start? In much the same way our high-profile clients do.

First, the heart part: They identify, and often create, charities that complement their interests and passions.

Next comes the business part. Our clients work with their team of advisors to identify effective and strategic giving options. They may support an existing charity, or decide to create their own, in which case they will identify and seek out high-impact board members. Either way, our clients want their philanthropic dollars to be managed and allocated as strategically as the rest of their wealth. In short, well-managed philanthropy can make a big difference.

Finally, as the saying goes, trust but verify. Meaning, our clients make sure someone is tracking the effectiveness of any organization they support.

So, whether you hit it out of the park literally or with your business, start your giving with your heart. But be sure you also work with a professional to maximize the impact of your generosity. Still, whatever that impact, remember the words of Aesop: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Steve Condos is a Private Wealth Advisor with the Wealth Management division of Morgan Stanley in New York, NY. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, Member SIPC (www.sipc.org). Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Advisors engaged Worth to feature this profile. Steve Condos may only transact business in states where he is registered or excluded or exempted from registration (pwm.morganstanley.com/apollogroup). Transacting business, follow-up and individualized responses involving either effecting or attempting to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, will not be made to persons in states where Steve Condos is not registered or excluded or exempt from registration. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors. (CRC2060767 03/18)

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