Hawai‘i Community Foundation
Professional Advisors


FALL 2022

William “Kumu” Belcher

Advisor Highlight: William “Kumu” Belcher:
4 Great Ways to Help your Clients Reach their Philanthropic Goals

From helping a client set up the donation of her home, to facilitating the creation of a $500,000-plus fund to support forest bird habitat, Kumu Belcher has tackled a wide variety of philanthropic challenges for his clients.

“It’s about figuring out what the client wants, what their goals are, and just focusing on that and determining the best tool to help them down that path,” he says.

As an attorney with the Hilo-based Hawaii Trust & Estate Council, Belcher has been advising clients on how to include charitable giving in their estate plans for more than a decade, frequently working with the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation (HCF) to help make their philanthropic goals a reality. He also serves as chair of HCF’s East Hawaiʻi Fund Advisory Committee.

Belcher recently helped establish four significant legacy gifts, including the Jennifer A. Baer Fund supporting families experiencing homelessness; the Nahele and Manu Fund to support the preservation of native forest birds and habitat on Hawai’i Island; the ‘Onipaʻa a Mālama i ke Aloha Fund supporting programs on Hawaiʻi Island to serve vulnerable women and children; and the Sam and Pauline Suemi Leong Scholarship Fund.

Belcher frequently works with HCF philanthropy advisor Malu Debus to implement his clients’ philanthropic goals. We asked the two to share their advice for helping clients with legacy giving.

1. Start the conversation.
Most clients who are interested in philanthropic giving come to a financial consultation with a clear idea of their chosen cause, Belcher says. “They’ll come in and say, ‘We’re animal people,’ or ‘We want to help people in poverty,’” he says. “Often, they’re already involved in that type of work during their lifetime.” For others, Debus suggests that professional advisors ask clients if they’ve considered a legacy gift, and not assume they already know their options. “They may have done something casual like supported phone drives, but they may not be familiar with planned giving,” she says. “Gifts made through legacy plans are usually 10 to 20 times what donors can give during their lifetime, so these are impactful, change-making gifts.”

2. Partner with a trusted expert.
Whether a client has specific philanthropic goals or is still learning about legacy giving, professional advisors can connect them with a trusted philanthropy advisor at HCF who can help them explore their options.

“We know the community,” Debus says. “We always encourage professional advisors to talk to us on the front end of the planning process, because we can really shape their clients’ understanding of what is possible with what dollar amount.”

Belcher says he often directs clients to HCF for expert advice. “Sometimes they have very unique goals, and that’s where the foundation can really help,” he says.

3. Consider an endowed fund.
For clients who want to support a certain cause, an endowed fund might be a better vehicle than a direct donation to a specific charity, Belcher says. With an endowed fund, the client sets up a fund at HCF that’s dedicated to the cause they support. They can set guidelines for how the money can be used. HCF advisors then take over management of the account, and use their knowledge of local charities to make awards to the organizations that will do the most good.

“Often the Community Foundation is a stronger organization than individual charities,” Belcher notes, “so they’re more likely to be around in perpetuity. It’s a way to make sure the client’s goals will be carried out forever.”

4. Set up a Memorandum of Understanding.
For an easy and flexible way to plan a bequest, clients can establish a Memorandum of Understanding with HCF. This allows the donor to easily update or change their wishes around how their bequest will be used, without having to go back and formally change their estate plan every time.

“People’s intentions change throughout their lifetime,” Debus says. “We have seen a number of plans change as our donors get closer to the end of life, to reflect what is really hitting home for them at that point. It’s always a good feeling to know we’re able to do that hassle-free and make that an easy process for them.”

Visit hawaiicommunityfoundation.org to learn more about the benefits of partnering with HCF.