Opera singer turned financial advisor gives to the arts and inspires clients to find their philanthropic passions.
Adam Malcolm zeroed in on his philanthropic goals amid the COVID pandemic: give back to the arts where he had thrived for years and found community. Because of the pandemic, too many artists were struggling with less financial security. But what sets Adam apart is that he’d only just become a financial advisor in 2020. By leveraging Toronto Foundation’s learning opportunities, network and expertise, Adam quickly incorporated his philanthropic learnings into his work: building trust with his clients, setting himself apart as an advisor who promotes philanthropy and moving more dollars to charity.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO START A FOUNDATION?
WHY ESTABLISH YOUR FUND WITH A COMMUNITY FOUNDATION INSTEAD OF A PRIVATE FOUNDATION OR WITH YOUR OWN COMPANY?
We have in-house donor advised funds and for a lot of folks that’s the right option. While I would have been able to directly manage my money and technically would have paid myself a commission to do that, I opted not to very purposefully.
I would consider myself an expert in many aspects of philanthropic planning: financial impact, integration with financial planning, best financial vehicles to advance my plan. But then the money sits in the account. Truthfully, I don’t have the expertise or the time to really know who the best people are to get these dollars. It’s not to say that I don’t have personal charities that I always want to support, we all do. But Toronto Foundation helps philanthropists to support smaller, yet high impact community organizations.
WHAT HAVE YOU GAINED FROM STARTING A FUND WITH A COMMUNITY FOUNDATION?
YOU ALREADY GIVE TO THE ARTS. WHY DIVERSIFY YOUR GIVING?
Right now, I would not necessarily need help figuring that out who to give to, but there’s also the “you don’t know what you don’t know.” There will inevitably be groups I don’t know.
I also want to support organizations led by and serving Black and Indigenous communities. As a white settler, colonial person, I need to humble myself. I don’t want to come in just waving a cheque. There’s some education that I wish that I had before, but I also know that the old white guilt way of doing things isn’t helping anyone either.
And then there’s my legacy. When I’m gone, my arts and culture fund will be set up as a permanent endowment. Future needs of the community will change and Toronto Foundation staff will be best positioned to steward that money.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR FINANCIAL ADVISORS?
Start with values. Understand who these clients are, their financial upbringing and that evolution.
Second, don’t worry too much about assets leaving your books because someone wants to make a gift. Giving to charity routinely ranks in the top priorities for wealthy individuals but only 13% of clients report having discussions with financial advisors. If you offer the best solution, it will come back to you – and I mean that quite literally in a business sense.
Lastly, walk the walk before you talk the talk, because your personal story of what you’ve done will resonate way more than any slick spreadsheet or plan. Your story is so much more powerful than that.
Hear more on Adam’s advice to advisors.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THROUGH TORONTO FOUNDATION?
I’m thinking of philanthropy less as something that is decided on a balance sheet or something that is driven by tax planning, and rather as a practice driven by fundamental values of who a person is.
Toronto Foundation’s Ground Your Giving event helped me get to that realization. And I’ve shamelessly stolen some of those learnings for my own discussions with clients! I will probably continue to attend each year, to check in with myself.
Adam is 1 of 58 fundholders who are also professional advisors. Most advisors first come to the Foundation because they are looking for ways to support their client’s philanthropic goals and they quickly find our offerings and unique expertise complement their services.
For more information in setting up a fund reach out to Laura Torres.