CEO of the Foundation for Financial Planning
At FiComm, we focus on giving back to the community in ways that matter to us and to those we serve. Our pro bono partnership with the Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP), the nation’s only 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity solely devoted to supporting the delivery of pro bono financial planning, is designed to help the organization gain visibility for their activities in a larger scope. To increase name and resource recognition, we assist FFP by enhancing their public relations and media outreach.
Continuing with our commitment to help promote FFP’s mission out to the world, in our second “Get to Know the Industry” blog, we would like to introduce Jon Dauphiné, CEO of FFP, who has spent decades offering his time to pro bono organizations. Through this interview, we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions regarding FFP’s role in the industry and learn about some inspiring stories that stem from his work.
Can you reflect on one personal story that inspired you to dedicate your profession to pro bono work?
I’m a lawyer by training, and while in law school, I worked at the Pro Bono Legal Clinic on housing cases. One of my clients was a single mother with four kids who was about to be evicted into the cold Boston winter. She lived in an apartment that was in a terrible shape – roaches everywhere, exposed electrical wires, holes in the walls. She didn’t realize that she had a defense against eviction due to the poor conditions, which the landlord had a duty to fix. She was able to stay in her home because she got help from professionals who understood the system even though she could never have afforded a lawyer on her own. So very early on, I witnessed the transformative power of pro bono service, and it’s been exciting to help lead an expansion of this work in financial planning.
What is Foundation for Financial Planning’s overall mission?
Our mission is to help people in need improve their financial lives by expanding access to pro bono financial planning. We seek to bring quality, fiduciary financial planning, and advice to underserved people who would otherwise go without. We envision a future in which all people can benefit from quality financial advice and it personally helps me fulfil my long-term commitment to help the underserved and to provide them with opportunities for a fair financial well-being.
Why is pro bono work so important in the financial services industry today?
The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the dire financial situations of many families, with almost 60 percent of Americans reporting COVID-related financial hardship. Of that group, almost three-quarters worried about making basic bill payments. Many of these folks desperately need financial advice to stabilize themselves and move forward, but they have nowhere to turn for this service. Financial advisors who volunteer to assist them can not only profoundly help these vulnerable people but also show the profession’s commitment to helping those who normally couldn’t access services.
What is your favorite part about the work that you do?
My favorite aspect about pro bono work is hearing stories from clients who have been helped and the advisors who have helped them. It is a good feeling to hear from a person with cancer, who had been financially struggling, feel less anxious and more secure after working with a pro bono planner. I have heard numerous stories from low-income single parents who, for the first time, have eliminated debt and feel good about their family’s future. Many pro bono advisors have said things like, “doing pro bono feeds my soul,” and, “this is why I got into this business in the first place.” It’s inspiring to hear from volunteers committed to lifting others through their expertise, and from their clients who can improve their financial health because of it.
How can advisors get involved with Foundation for Financial Planning? Can you talk through some of your ongoing initiatives?
It’s easy – CFP professionals can go to our platform, ProBonoPlannerMatch.org, to register and then sign up for pro bono opportunities either in their communities or (especially during COVID) available virtually. We’re always working to have our nonprofit grantees and partners post volunteer opportunities there, and FFP’s liability policy will cover qualified CFPs at no cost to them.
In addition, we rely on donations from advisors to sustain and grow our programs, so I’d urge folks to consider making a gift or pledge to our COVID-19 Financial Resilience Fund at FFPprobono.org/donate. Currently Charles Schwab Foundation is doubling all gifts, up to $500K, so you can double your impact!
Regarding our initiatives, we just released another cycle of grants to 15 great nonprofit partners. We are growing our program with AARP to bring personalized guidance to at-risk seniors. We have also launched a pilot to help financially struggling nurses during COVID, and our Pro Bono for Cancer effort has helped about 1,000 vulnerable patients since its inception in 2018. FFPprobono.org is the best resource to learn more, and we have an e-newsletter that folks can sign up for to stay in the loop.
What is something that you are looking forward to in 2021 for Foundation for Financial Planning?
Inspired by the pro bono legal industry I was a part of previously, FFP recently endorsed a joint statement from corporate leaders on our Advisory Council, which asked the CFP Board to consider making a recommendation to all certificants to perform a minimum of 25 hours of pro bono service per year. Having seen the growing passion towards pro bono service, we think our recommendation would help implement this passion for all planners in the industry. It would be strictly voluntary, but it could serve as an important cue to the profession that pro bono service is part of what it means to be a CFP professional. The CFP Board’s leadership is considering this as they chart their moving-forward strategy, and we are looking forward to working with them on this idea and other concepts that can enhance pro bono in the profession.
What Foundation for Financial Planning initiative hits home for you and why?
Our Pro Bono for Cancer Initiative, which brings pro bono advice to cancer patients under financial stress, has a special place in my heart. My brother-in-law passed from cancer a few years ago at a fairly young age and with little warning. He always handled all the family finances, so amid all of this stress, my sister had to figure out how she and her two daughters could manage financially. Unlike so many families, they were fortunate to have resources to afford financial advice. So, having witnessed this issue first-hand, I understand the significance of such an initiative and what can it provide to families during one of their worst times in the industry. I’m also excited because one of our nonprofit partners, Family Reach, recently published a study that we funded showing that patient financial assistance programs that include pro bono planning can increase the quality of life for patients with serious blood cancers while also increasing survivorship.
If you wanted the industry to know one thing about pro bono work, what would it be?
Just do it! Get involved with your time, your talent, and/or your treasure. There are so many Americans who lack access to an objective, expert financial advisor who can provide advice and planning, and even a modest commitment or a small contribution can help these folks improve their finances and their lives.