New BRAF program makes philanthropy easier


With the goal of making charitable giving more accessible, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has launched a program that allows people to open charitable funds through BRAF while continuing to use their own professional financial advisors.

Previously, local philanthropists could only go through BRAF directly to set up a charitable fund, after which the foundation would equally split the philanthropist’s assets between money managers at the New York-based J.P. Morgan private bank and Goldman Sachs. However, BRAF’s board of directors recently voted to allow local investment firms to continue managing the assets of their philanthropic clients.

(Courtesy Baton Rouge Area Foundation)

“It’s a natural evolution for us—allowing people to
better access the ability to be charitable.”

ELIZABETH HUTCHISON, BRAF’s director of philanthropic services

“We’ve gotten some phone calls from people who have longstanding relationships with their advisors, so it’s something we’ve been talking about for awhile,” says Elizabeth Hutchison, BRAF’s director of philanthropic services. “It’s a natural evolution for us—allowing people to better access the ability to be charitable.”

Here’s how it works: BRAF opens a charitable account with a financial institution, such as Merrill Lynch. If a client of Merrill Lynch wants to make a philanthropic gift of at least $250,000 to one of the 700-plus charitable funds managed by BRAF’s donor services department, they can call BRAF to make a grant from the investment account BRAF established with that firm.

With several hundred qualified investment advisors identified in the Baton Rouge area, BRAF officials hope the specialty campaign will attract more donor interest and better accommodate the preferences of philanthropists with the capacity to donate $250,000 or more to charity.

It also allows BRAF to strengthen its relationship with the local financial management community.

To kickstart its launch, Hutchison invited 20 money managers to join a newly created Professional Advisory Council, making them aware of the new campaign and encouraging them to participate—an effort Hutchison says is yielding “a great response.”

If the $250,000 donation is a little out of your comfort zone, BRAF President John Davies says people can still open a donor-advised fund through BRAF for $10,000, noting the Foundation ultimately strives to “democratize” philanthropic giving throughout Baton Rouge.

“You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to be a philanthropist,” Davies says. “But if we get this working properly, we think we can increase annual receipts by 50%, raising $60 million in annual income (up from $40 million). And we typically give away as much as we raise in a year.”