News of a liquidity event travels fast. After a business owner sells his or her company, it often doesn’t take much time before that seller is inundated with calls from people, businesses and organizations touting opportunities for the seller’s new-found liquidity. And many (sometimes former) business owners are eager to get involved in a project, willing to move their money to support a worthy endeavor.
Ken Levitan, founder and co-president of Vector Management, said in the music business there a lot of charities that approach him for donations — not just music charities, but individual artist charities.
“I must get a request a week or more for some sort of charity-based thing,” Levitan said when speaking at the Nashville Smart Business Dealmakers Conference.
On the panel, "Turning Liquidity Into Purpose," Levitan said what he’s found to be important when it comes to philanthropy is you have to become involved with charitable endeavors that resonate with you personally, those that you feel you are really causes that you want for which you want to make a difference.
“Because you can’t do everything,” Levitan said. “So you really have to pick and choose — mix it up every year in terms of where you’re giving to, on a personal level and on a company level.”
Both as personal and business net worth grow, so do the number of requests. And that, for some, can be overwhelming. Additionally, for those who go through a liquidity event, many are no longer working in their business 24/7, which means they both have time to pull back and help their community or get involved with charities, and they are often looking for something else into which they can invest their energy and money.
For other owners who have had a liquidity event and are looking to get more philanthropically involved, Levitan said finding your passion is the most important element. Charitable giving can start small and then increase in size as you get more sophisticated. And part of being a sophisticated donor is doing your research. See how much of that gift actually goes to affect the cause and how much is eaten up by expenses.
“I think that’s the really important thing about philanthropy is to dig in a little bit deeper,” Levitan said.
While research is key before investing, choosing a the cause to support may be just a matter of gut feeling — find something to support that you’re passionate about. But philanthropy is more than just writing a check.
“It’s about money, but it’s also about time,” Levitan said. “Sometimes your time can be just as important.”