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Advising Philanthropists: Principles and practice

Philanthropy advice is an emerging and important profession fuelled by demand from donors for support with their charitable giving.

Advising Philanthropists explores what the role of the philanthropy advisor entails, the practicalities involved and the wide range of skills and knowledge needed to start and excel at working with donors.

As well as explaining the key concepts, this accessible overview considers the challenges that can be encountered in the role and the ethical dilemmas to be weighed. It is illuminated by interviews with 40 philanthropy advisors from around the globe offering unique and authentic accounts of this unsung profession.

Emma Beeston said:

“We wrote this book to shine a light on the emerging profession of philanthropy advice – a valuable and growing part of the ecosystem supporting philanthropists. The book includes rich insights drawn from interviews with philanthropy advisors across the world…”

About Emma Beeston and Dr Beth Breeze

Emma Beeston is an independent philanthropy advisor to philanthropists, families and foundations. Her advice guides donors from exploring their values through to implementing their giving to achieve their philanthropic goals. Emma specialises in supporting those new to philanthropy and facilitating multigenerational giving. Prior to her current role, Emma worked for grant-making organisations including BBC Children in Need, Lloyds Bank Foundation and Comic Relief.

Emma co-created with Beth Breeze the Advising Donors module for the Philanthropic Studies master’s degree programme at the University of Kent. She is also a lecturer on the Philanthropy, Grantmaking and Social Investment master’s degree programme at Bayes Business School and a trainer with the Association of Charitable Foundations. She wants philanthropy to be accessible to all and is co-founder of a giving circle, Bath Women’s Fund.

Dr Beth Breeze has an international profile as an academic expert on philanthropy. She worked as a fundraiser and charity manager for a decade before co-founding the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent in 2008, where she now leads a team conducting research and teaching courses on philanthropy and fundraising.

She has written several books, including The New Fundraisers and In Defence of Philanthropy, both of which won the Skystone Partners Prize for Research on Fundraising and Philanthropy. She co-edited The Philanthropy Reader and co-authored Richer Lives: Why rich people give, published by the Directory of Social Change. She has also written numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and practitioner-facing reports on philanthropy, fundraising and volunteering, and regularly provides media comment and speaks at charity sector conferences.


“Advising Philanthropists situates the work of philanthropy advisors within the larger context of the sector to provide both practical advice and food for thought for philanthropy advisors and consultants at all stages of their careers.”
Jessica Bearman, Principal, Bearman Consulting LLC and Chair, National Network of Consultants to

“By laying out the key principles, functions and ethical issues involved in advising donors, Emma Beeston and Beth Breeze make enormous strides in establishing philanthropic advisory work as a legitimate profession.”
Melissa A. Berman, PhD, Founding President and CEO, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

“This is a coming-of-age reference guide for the philanthropy sector revealing the professional toolkit of the 21st century philanthropy advisor. It uncovers how philanthropy advisors help donors give money where it is needed most.”
Cath Dovey, Co-founder, Beacon Collaborative

“Finally, a book about and for philanthropy advisors! This book is vital for all philanthropy advisors, coaches and consultants. Whether you are just getting started or a seasoned professional, Advising Philanthropists will help you understand and improve your craft, and dramatically increase your impact with your philanthropic clients. I highly recommend this book!”
Kris Putnam-Walkerly, Global Philanthropy Advisor, Putnam Consulting Group

“Thought-provoking, practical, expert and beautifully written. An absolute must-read for anyone who works with donors, so they can have great conversations about philanthropy.
Lyn Tomlinson, Head of Impact and Philanthropy, Cazenove Capital

“To use the phrase of the moment – I feel seen! The authors have shone a light on the practice of philanthropy advice and its challenges. This book is an essential guide for community foundation professionals and others who seek to harness donor generosity to do good.”
Rob Williamson, CEO, Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland


What do philanthropy advisors do? (from chapter 2 Understanding the role of the philanthropy advisor)

Despite the role’s historical roots, explored in chapter 1, most philanthropy advisors still spend time having to explain to friends and family –as well as potential clients and those who could make referrals – what exactly it is that they do and why this might be a necessary and valuable service. There is an understanding that financial advice comes with a fee, but charging people for advice on how to give to charity seems to set a discordant tone.

Danielle Khordi at the philanthropy consulting company Geneva Global identifies two common and conflicting misconceptions: social change is either too important to outsource to advisors or it’s a hobby that does not require professional input. People with this second view consider philanthropy advice to be an imaginary career: “This group usually wants to nudge me into admitting that we just charge exorbitant fees to provide impractical advice from an ivory tower.” Given that philanthropy advisors do exist and, as we saw in chapter 1, that a number of drivers are increasing their number, their services are clearly in demand. So let us turn to what they actually do.

Reproduced with permission and excerpted from Advising Philanthropists: Principles and practice by Emma Beeston and Beth Breeze © 2023 Directory of Social Change

Look inside

You can also explore a page-turning Look Inside version of the book at DSC.

Listen to Emma Beeston

Emma Beeston spoke about the new book on the Charity Impact podcast with Alex Blake at KEDA Consulting.

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