What philanthropy advisors can learn from the rise of the fork

By Plum Lomax 22 March 2010

Lesson number 1

The Florentine princess, Catherine de Medici, is credited with introducing the fork to France. She brought them with her when she married the French King Henri II in the mid 16th century. Before this, people ate with their fingers.

Before de Medici’s wedding there was no demand for forks, but her use and promotion of them gradually converted people, and they became widespread. It’s a story echoed in other innovations like the iPod or the PC.

It’s a story we had in mind when we started thinking about how you could develop the market for philanthropy advice. In our opinion the market is not flourishing – less advice is sought by donors than expected, and philanthropy advice is not, on the whole, pro-actively supplied by private client advisors.

The first lesson is that the social aspects of nurturing the demand side of a market are incredibly important. We think that is especially the case in the philanthropy advice market given the general reluctance of philanthropists to talk publicly about their giving. Advisors need to feel confident talking to their clients about philanthropy, and clients need to feel comfortable and happy talking about philanthropy with their lawyer, accountant or banker, but also with their friends.

Take a look at our new report out today, The business of philanthropy. We’ll be sharing more lessons from the report soon on this blog.