Financial planners are being called on to give something back to the communities from which they draw their livelihoods, writes Simon Mumme.

With much Baby Boomer money to manage and compulsory superannuation inflows to direct, the financial services industry has been good to financial advisers.

Having benefited from its growth, the industry “does present planners with obligations to give something back”, says Terry Power, chairman of WHK Group and the Future2 foundation.

Now Future2, the charitable foundation of the Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA), is asking its member chapters for fiscal and human support to boost its efforts to help young people who are physically, mentally or financially disadvantaged.

“Our greatest strength is the members that the FPA has,” Power says.

“Our greatest challenge is coordinating that. Unless we have membership input, we won’t achieve our aims. It’s a bottom-up, rather than top-down, process.”

The marketing and fundraising committees of the foundation have begun talking to and organising meetings with FPA chapters around Australia and, beginning this month, hosting lunches with principals of dealer groups to “bring the story to them”.

It would also like to become the supported charity at many dealer group conferences: “If we can tap into that it would be a major source of income,” Power says.

And, with the backing of some dealer groups and many FPA members, attempts to raise money from other major financial institutions would stand it in better stead. But raising funds is only one dimension of running a charitable foundation.

As Future2 took shape, the trustees learnt of existing charitable projects supported by FPA chapters. In subsequent rounds of grant applications, they received submissions from FPA chapters promoting the charitable projects they were involved in. So far, three grants have been made to programs that involve local FPA chapters. Promoting philanthropic work within the FPA, and circulating information about these projects throughout the association, has emerged as part of the brief for Future2.

“Some individual chapters have been giving for a long time but there hasn’t been a collective body,” Power says.

These Future2 grants were distributed through FPA chapters. For example, the Brisbane FPA chapter nominated Search Light Inc, a provider of financial and living skills education in Brisbane, as a candidate for a $10,000 grant.

The submission succeeded, and the Brisbane planners helped find a financial counsellor for the patrons. Last month, FPA member and Lifeline employee, Annie Sperling, began holding weekly classes at Search Light Inc. In Mildura, FPA member Philip Shugg conducted a study of the aims and possible relocation of Access Mildura, an organisation running training programs in areas such as retailing, catering and gardening for disadvantaged young adults.

The Sunraysia chapter of the FPA promoted Access Mildura in a successful bid for a $10,000 grant. Shugg has also worked as a mentor for Access Mildura. Power says that a benefit of providing grants to projects involving FPA members is that it provides additional supervision of how the donated money is used. So far the grants being distributed by Future2 have been funded by donations – primarily a $100,000 sum from AMP and $37,000 from delegates at the 2007 FPA National Conference.

Power says the foundation aims to deploy between 50 and 60 per cent of the money it raises each year in the form of grants or funding of projects. With a separate charter and board of trustees, Future2 is an independent organisation from the FPA, although it relies on the FPA for administrative support and office space. It runs committees focused on investments, audits, grants and projects, fundraising and marketing. It is now assessing business plans for the new financial year.

“It’s important that the foundation stands on its own two feet,” Power says.

Power says the programs Future2 supports will be targeted at providing people with the means and skills required “to get out of disadvantage”.

“The members of the financial planning industry have been very fortunate to work in a growth industry. [Future2] can be a way of putting something back – to help the disadvantaged and young get a start,” Power says.

“If you are helping them get out into the workforce, then you are achieving something worthwhile.”

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