The way Mark Weber perceived it, billionaire Warren Buffett was looking him square in the eye at a United Way of the Midlands dinner when the Oracle of Omaha challenged the audience: "What can you do to make our community No. 1 in charitable giving?”
“That really got me thinking ... What can I do to make a difference in our community?” Weber said. “I realized financial advisors can play a more important role in helping people give back.”
Buffett’s challenge and Weber’s "aha moment" prompted the longtime financial consultant, author and principal of SilverStone Group Inc., to reach out to the Omaha Community Foundation (OCF). He proposed a partnership and a program that, over the last eight years, has helped more than 100 local professionals earn their Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) designation.
“As a result of the class, advisors are connecting with their clients at a much deeper level,” Weber said. “They’re learning how to help clients identify their values and incorporate them into their planning. They’re learning to ask open-ended questions: ‘How much do you want your children to receive and why? What do you want them to do with it? What is the legacy you wish to leave the community?' In our normal planning as advisors, those questions are rarely asked.”
To complete the Foundation's CAP program, participants meet for 15 Weber-led study group sessions while simultaneously completing three graduate-level courses — all of which are administered online by The American College of Financial Services:
• Planning for Philanthropic Impact in the Context of Family Wealth
• Charitable Giving Strategies
• Gift Planning in a Nonprofit Context
Classes consist of small group discussions and interviews with outside speakers. Omaha’s most successful and philanthropic citizens — from Walter Scott and Mike Yanney to Ken Stinson and John Gottschalk — have been invited to share their stories and philanthropic philosophies.
Ron Quinn, a Tenaska executive vice president, graduated in 2012 with OCF’s inaugural CAP class. Weber’s passion — and Quinn’s belief in the program’s potential for good — drew him in.
“Estate planning is about a lot more than tax planning. It is about life planning, family planning, charitable planning and leaving a legacy,” Quinn said. “The CAP program provides graduates with tools and a new way of thinking and communicating geared to helping clients to holistically think about how to plan and how to structure, implement and communicate what they want to accomplish.”
The three-course CAP program encompasses a year-long investment of time and money ($3,800 for for-profit professional advisors, $3,000 for nonprofit professionals). Participation, by invitation only, is limited to 12 to 16 students selected on their expertise and experience.
The class make-up consists of representatives from law, accounting, financial services and the nonprofit sector. Students learn to work together to help their affluent clients. The goal is straightforward: to help Omaha be a more generous community.
The numbers bear it out — the eight-year-old program is having an impact toward that end. As a whole, the 106 CAP-designated advisors who’ve participated in OCF’s interdisciplinary study group have helped facilitate more than $1.4 billion in charitable gifts, according to their self-reporting.
“Mark’s development and leadership of the CAP program has been a game-changer for philanthropy in Omaha and the region,” Quinn said.
“We know we’re making a difference,” Weber said. “Clients feel more empowered, by working with CAP advisors, to pass their wealth to their children and to our community with thought and meaning.”
With baby boomers and their parents aging, the need for CAP-designated professionals is expected to increase. According to the latest projections, the nation could see an intergenerational wealth transfer of up to $50 trillion over the next 30 years. In Douglas County alone, the projected wealth transfer is pegged at $30 billion by 2050. That has tremendous implications for the local philanthropic community, Weber said.
“We have an extraordinary number of generous people here,” Weber said. “There is a tradition here that you are, in a sense, not measured by how much money you make but how much you give.”
He believes, as he wrote in his book, "The Legacy Spectrum," that “we are meeting Warren Buffett’s challenge, one conversation at a time between philanthropically-inclined individuals and their advisors.”
Weber, who donates his time to the study group, says his involvement is probably the most rewarding thing he has ever done.
“To see the professionals awakened to this new way of planning — helping families grow closer and leave a more meaningful legacy — is extraordinarily rewarding.”
To learn more about the CAP designation, contact the Omaha Community Foundation at CAP@omahafoundation.org or 402-342-3458.