How can a focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) increase planned giving? For a fresh take on this question, Giving Docs Chief Development Officer, Jade Bristol, recently sat down with two planned giving experts who focus on reaching diverse audiences: Lillie Nkenchor, an estate and business planning attorney with deep experience working with clients from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and Dien Yuen, Co-Founder of Daylight Advisors.
Jade: What are some of the unique considerations you see in your estate planning and philanthropic work, particularly within communities of color?
Dien: My work has really focused on creating a framework to address cultural nuances. For example, even in the Asian American community, I can’t teach you every element of cultural competence among Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and other communities, it’s just impossible. But we should have a framework on how to approach complex issues unfamiliar to us.
Within Asian American communities, the idea of talking about death is very taboo. But we’re also very, very practical people. And, so we focus on the ability to be part of a community effort of supporting the nonprofit, and less on the stigma of not creating a personal estate plan.
Lillie: For the communities I serve, including African-American and Black communities, talking about death is scary because it means that you’re ready to die or you’re welcoming death. When I tried to get my parents, who are Nigerian, to do their planning, my mother looked at me and said: “Are you trying to kill me?” So there is this fear that if I talk about a time when I’m not here, it’s like telling the universe that I’m ready to go now. And so I constantly have to shift the conversation away from death to influence. When we are planning, we are influencing your legacy.
I like to use the word influence. I’m sitting here, as an estate planning professional, to give you the power to influence your friends, to influence your family, to influence your assets, so that your ethos, your spirit, your laugh, the things that are really important to you can still be affected even when you’re not here.
Jade: Are either of you seeing noteworthy trends among BIPOC donors as they consider giving through estate plans?
Lillie: The first thing I’m seeing is a concern about whether or not their money will be used properly. Donors are asking me about an organization’s history of giving to the BIPOC community, and their history of supporting BIPOC communities. The second trend is not just, “I want to give,” but instead, “My spouse wants to give and our children want to give; we want to make this a family routine. So before we all put our energy and love into this organization, how do we know this is the organization for us?” They want to make sure that this is a planned giving strategy for the family, and it’s not a one-off.
Dien: I’m seeing a very similar trend: donors don’t want to act alone, but they want family participation and for the giving to be “in community.” The other interesting thing among immigrant families is planned giving as a mode of preparation, having witnessed tragedies that may have happened within their communities, and not having been taught how to do this via estate planning.
Lillie: There are members in the community who are used to giving while they are alive. That could be tithing, that could be time, that could be board membership, that could be annual gifts. But the concept of giving when you’re not here can still feel very foreign.
Dien: And that’s where I think the planned giving officers have the most influence. In particular, the Asian Americans I have worked with truly welcome that conversation, because no one’s talked to them about it. And that education piece is so valuable to them.
Jade: There’s a gap in the rate of estate planning in this country between white people and people of color. This documentation gap is intrinsically tied to the generational wealth gap. What are some of the opportunities to assist with increasing the rates of estate planning among communities of color?
Lillie: Estate planning is spoken about as if it’s a thing that is only relevant for the very wealthy, who own multiple properties, who summer in the Hamptons. So when that is the estate planning picture that you imagine, it’s easy to compare yourself and say, “I’m not wealthy. I don’t have an estate, and so I don’t need to plan.” People of color have been told directly and indirectly that estate planning is not for them: “You don’t have enough. You don’t make enough. What you’ve built is not a big deal.” And this message is further calcified because they don’t have anyone in their social circle who has done planning.
Dien: We talk about the need to do estate planning, but fundamentally, there’s a trust issue. You need to find an estate planner that you can trust, right? And that’s the problem. People know they need to do this, but even when they’re ready, they often cannot find the right attorney to help walk them through the process.
Lillie: People want to work with members of their community. Why? Because I can say things to you that I may not be able to say to someone else, or sometimes I can say a part of the story and I know you get what I’m saying without me having to be too vulnerable and explain it because there’s an assumption that the person you’re speaking with has had the same experience.
Jade: How can planned giving professionals expand our networks to include more advisors of color?
Lillie: One way to shore up the planned giving community is to cross-pollinate across disciplines, and work with financial services experts, financial planners, insurance agents, and other advisors, so you can work as a connector for donors. The estate planning community includes lots of different kinds of people.
Dien: We need more advisors to choose from. Research suggests that you need at least 3.4 out of 10 people in a given group to be BIPOC to really move the needle on diversity. So if you are putting together a Planned Giving Council or Professional Advisors Council, make sure at least 3.4 out of 10 members are BIPOC, so advisors of color don’t feel alone, so donors have choices, and so we can truly diversify our networks.
About the Panelists
Dien Yuen, JD/LLM, CAP®, AEP®: Dien co-founded Daylight Advisors to revolutionize the field and practice of philanthropic advising. Bringing together her expertise in gift planning, wealth management, professional development, and social impact, Daylight helps maximize philanthropy’s potential for transforming lives by advancing the training, research, professionalization, and diversity of today’s philanthropic field. Dien also founded the Center for Philanthropy and Social Impact at The American College of Financial Services, where she developed and taught courses as the Blunt-Nickel Professor in Philanthropy for the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®) designation. While at the College, Dien launched the Advisors of Color CAP® Study Group, a support group for BIPOC advisors pursuing their designations. That initiative tripled the number of CAP-trained BIPOC philanthropic professionals in the field in less than three years. She serves on the boards of Give2Asia, Giving Compass, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, and The 1990 Institute and is an advisor to the Asia Society Northern California and Global SF.
Lillie N. Nkenchor, Esq., LL.M: President of Lillie N. Nkenchor, PC, educates individuals, families and business owners on estate and business planning concepts. An attorney based in New York, she brings over 13 years of client advisory services related to estate and business planning. Inspired by the opportunity to empower women and families to take control of their generational wealth, Lillie is a member of the New York, New Jersey and DC bars and is a member of the metropolitan Black Bar Association, National Bar Association, FInancial Women’s Association, New York State Bar and National Association of Black Accountants. She received the 2017 NBA Top 40 Under 40 award which recognizes the top 40 attorneys in the nation who exemplify stellar professional achievement and leadership.