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Trusted Advisors: Giving Impactfully in Times of Crises



After experiencing the effects of war, advising on best practices for philanthropic giving.

Each time a new geopolitical crisis unfolds, we see an outpouring of news headlines and posts of solidarity all over social media. Most recently, we have seen this with the war in Ukraine. Increasing awareness and giving philanthropically to support those suffering is crucial, but many people with the means to give philanthropically often don’t know where to start. It is important to set philanthropic goals and ensure that your donations have a lasting impact as part of your overall wealth management plan.

Identify Your Giving Goals

After serving in “The Surge” in Iraq in 2007, I have seen suffering firsthand. It’s hard to truly understand how lucky we are living in a country with protected human rights we often take for granted until you experience war. Most people initially think to donate emergency relief items including food, water, clothing, shelter, and emergency medical care. Doing your due diligence in researching the charities available to receive donations and cross checking them with those with proven track records of success in conflict or humanitarian response is essential. It is also important to assess each organization’s leadership, relationships with local government, ability to evaluate the needs on the ground and capacity to manage an influx of funding.

In war-stricken countries, long-term care, which includes education, workforce development programs, and infrastructure, is just as important as emergency relief. The banking system often comes to a screeching halt, impeding businesses from continuing to operate or can cause the economy to tank. Living in a society under a basic rule of law quickly becomes a figment of the imagination when you are faced with trying to survive in a place where whoever has the biggest guns is in charge.

Planning for Impact and Legacy

As a young lieutenant, I served as a de facto humanitarian leader in the region in addition to securing my battlespace. I went through the experiences and problems that the people of Ukraine will be faced with in the months and years ahead, so I educate and strongly advise clients to invest in long-term care in addition to emergency relief. Ensuring your donation will be used for your intended purposes and funding beyond the initial six months is key, as most fundraising efforts experience dramatic declines after this mark. Conflict response and management works best when applied with long-term strategies for building and maintaining peace and security.

After completing two combat deployments, I moved to Pasadena with my wife and made the transition to corporate America. Pasadena remains one of the top cities in terms of highest number of nonprofits per capita, making it one of the largest nonprofit philanthropy sectors in the US. Seventy percent of giving is now done through donor advised funds. I remain committed and eager to advise clients in their impactful giving journey at the new Pasadena Private Bank office to the community I call home.

Nicholas Smith is a Banker and Executive Director for J.P. Morgan Private Bank based out of Pasadena, California advising affluent families, foundations and nonprofits on strategic philanthropy as a part of their overall wealth management needs. 

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