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CAPIf giving back is part of your financial plan, you may consider working with a chartered advisor in philanthropy (CAP). A CAP has the necessary knowledge and expertise to help you createa plan for philanthropic giving. Here’s a closer look at what chartered advisors in philanthropy do and how to become one.

Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy Defined

A chartered advisor in philanthropy is a trained expert in philanthropic giving. An advisor who has this designation works with clients to help them give in ways that fit  their larger financial or estate plan. For example, you might work with a CAP alongside an estate planning attorney, an investment advisor and/or an accountant as you shape your plan.

Chartered advisors in philanthropy can also work with organizations or legal entities to help coordinate fundraising or manage planned giving efforts. For example, a CAP® might work with a trust to help create an endowment or scholarship fund. Whether working with individuals or organizations, the CAP’s overall purpose is the same: to help their clients create the legacy of giving and stewardship that they’ve envisioned.

Someone who gets a chartered advisor in philanthropy designation may have other professional designations as well. For example, a CAP also may be a certified public accountant (CPA), chartered financial consultant (ChFC), or certified financial planner (CFP).

How to Become a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy

The chartered advisor in philanthropy designation is administered by The American College of Financial Services. To earn the designation, applicants must:

  • Complete the required coursework.
  • Meet minimum experience requirements.
  • Follow ethical guidelines.
  • Agree to The American College of Financial Services Code of Ethics and Procedures.
  • Pay the associated fees.

To meet the experience requirements, one of the following must be true for three of the five years prior to applying for the designation:

  • The advisor offered wealth and estate planning, financial planning, charitable planning, charitable giving, planned giving, nonprofit or foundation management or services, investment management of charitable assets or accounting services to individuals or charities; OR
  • The advisor was employed in the nonprofit sector in a role related to nonprofit management, development, planned giving or fundraising.

The coursework consists of three classes covering gift planning for families, gift planning for nonprofits and charitable giving strategies. This curriculum is designed to be self-study and students learn via recorded lectures online. The courses are the equivalent of three semester hours each, for a total of nine semester hours.

Each course requires the completion of a two-hour exam, which is administered at a local exam center. Courses are graduate-level and can earn credit toward a Master of Science in Financial Services degree as well as the chartered advisor in philanthropy designation. Students can ask questions online and get answers from The American College of Financial Services faculty members. The College requires the designation to be completed within five years of completing the relevant coursework.

CAP Costs

As of 2019, the tuition rate is $1,850 per course or $3,800 for students who pay for all three at the same time.  Students who work for a nonprofit pay only $1,300 per course or $3,000 for all three. This fee covers all the study materials needed to complete the course, the online learning modules, the final exam and shipping fees. Students who need to retake or reschedule final exams for any courses also pay a $125 each time.

Once a CAP® designation is earned, advisors must recertify regularly and complete continuing education (CE) requirements. As of 2019, the CE requirement is 30 hours of continuing education every two years. Meanwhile, annual recertification is mandatory. As a result, there’s a $125 fee to get recertified each year.

CAP vs. Other Professional Designations

CAPA chartered advisor in philanthropy focuses on different strategies than a certified financial planner or investment advisor. With a CAP, the main intent is to help you develop a plan for philanthropic giving, based on your individual financial situation and goals. When helping you create that plan, your advisor might ask:

  • What kind of legacy would you like to leave for your children?
  • What kind of impact would you like to make on the world?
  • How do you measure success?
  • What causes are you most passionate about?
  • How would you like to leave your mark on the world as it is and what would that look like for future generations?
  • Does your current financial or estate plan reflect your vision for charitable giving and making a difference?

When working with a certified financial planner or an accountant, the focus may be completely different. A CPA, for instance, can guide you on tax planning strategies. Meanwhile, a CFP may work with you to guide your investment strategy as you build a portfolio for retirement.

When Should Someone Work With a CAP?

Working with a chartered advisor in philanthropy could make sense if you have a large estate. This type of advisor can also work with nonprofits and foundations to manage fundraising or giving efforts.

On the other hand, if you don’t have large-scale plans for charitable giving, you may not need a CAP. An estate planning attorney, certified financial planner, or both could help you allocate your wealth.

The Bottom Line

CAPA chartered advisor in philanthropy is a somewhat more obscure designation than a certified financial planner or chartered financial consultant. Understanding the role they can play in giving and philanthropy can help you decide if you can benefit from this type of advisor’s services.

Financial Planning Tips

  • If you want to make philanthropy part of your estate, consider consulting a financial advisor. If you don’t have an advisor yet, finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • When considering philanthropic giving, research the different ways you have to give. For example, you might establish a trust fund for the benefit of an individual or charitable organization. Or you could create an endowment or nonprofit foundation of your own. Your advisor can help you determine which one is most appropriate for your giving goals.

Photo credit: ©, © suwanachun, © Ahir

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She's worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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