By Todd Cohen
“We bring a holistic approach to our clients,” says Eileen Wilhem, managing executive for Wachovia’s charitable services group.
That approach, she says, integrates a broad range of banking resources and is critical in the face of greater expectations on the part of charitable clients, and tougher competition among financial-services firms for their business, she says.
“The challenge for us is understanding the different constituencies and adapting,” says Wilhem, an accountant who has had a front-row seat to observe changes in the charitable market.
In 1973, she helped form the charitable-services group for Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank, one of the first U.S. banks to dedicate a unit to managing charitable assets and providing services to charities and donors.
After 18 years there and then stints in Connecticut for Union Trust (which eventually became part of First Union) and also Fleet Bank, she moved to Philadelphia six years ago to head charitable services for First Union.
Now, with the merger of First Union and Wachovia – which was one of Mellon’s only early competitors — Wilhem heads charitable services for the fourth-largest U.S. bank, which manages $12 billion in charitable assets.
The bank’s offices in 11 states from Connecticut to Florida plus the District of Columbia provide administrative, consulting and investment services to foundations and nonprofits, and to individual donors with $1 million or more to invest.
The bank manages nearly $3 billion in assets for private foundations, giving away nearly $150 million a year in grants, and manages another $1.5 billion in planned gifts to nonprofits.
It also employs 141 lawyers, accountants and other specialists focused on the charitable and investment needs of individual donors and institutions.
The team approach reflects the diverse needs of the increasingly competitive philanthropic market, says Wilhem, who is based in Winston-Salem.
At least $1.7 trillion in charitable assets is expected to be transferred between generations over the next 20 years, and at least $6 trillion over the next 50 years, according to conservative estimates by Boston College researchers.
At the same time, a new generation of donors has emerged that has more women and is younger and more entrepreneurial and hands-on than past generations.
Fueled by those changes, a growing number of financial-services firms and professional advisers are marketing their services to donors, foundations and nonprofits.
Wachovia’s team approach extends to partners outside the bank, Wilhem says.
Its big foundation clients, for example, get advice from The Philanthropic Initiative, a Boston-based nonprofit that also holds seminars for Wachovia’s individual clients and prospects on the role of foundation board members.
Wachovia also provides financial and volunteer support for New Ventures in Philanthropy, a national initiative that promotes philanthropy.
“We’re committed to spreading the word about philanthropy,” says Wilhem, a New Ventures board member. “Through managing assets and consulting services, a great of deal of good can be done in the community.”