The New Message: Combining Altruism With Financial Literacy In The Public Domain

There’s an old saying that is as important today as when it first was spoken back in the day:

“People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care”

In today’s marketing arena, people are being besieged by professionals promoting “Informational Workshops”—often around a free meal—which is thinly disguised as nothing more than a Salesathon. Even before COVID, many of these Workshops began to decline due to apathy by the public and the rising costs associated from the workshop to the presenter.

What rarely is spoken about is the mind-numbing result for the attendee, who ironically came for some information, yet was bombarded with an ongoing sales pitch. Thus, over time, the attendance began to wane, the marketing costs soared, and the results needed by the presenter were far less than expected. Then, the pandemic showed up and the venues closed up.

The very concept of the one-on-group workshop still makes total sense to the professional advisor/entrepreneur who can, in one hour to a group of interested attendees, deliver a message. When that message is framed as—Strategic, Tactical, Practical—and is presented in a generic, non-proprietary manner, it’s most often received favorably by the attendees.

Now, combine that message with positioning oneself not as an advisor selling the products and services of his firm, but instead creating an identity as a public educator and a member of a non-profit educational speaker’s bureau (Public Benefit Corporation) and the credibility of the presenter soars. It’s not about the workshop. Rather, it’s about the presentation and how the presenter delivers it.

To some, the idea of altruism as a public message flies in the face of the intent of the presenter to “sell the room.” On the contrary, people—most people—know they need financial guidance but are embarrassed to share their plight with strangers…so they don’t.

Creating an atmosphere of “safety” through the presenter “giving back” to his/her community, presenting a series of no cost, no selling, strictly informational/educational workshops—with zero obligation on the attendee’s part—is a new refreshing way to reach the advisor’s future prospects.

Let’s not blame the attendees for our industry’s poor results. Possibly, it’s on us, the advisors, who have eroded our message by bribing the public with food and gifts, pounding our information upon them with a sales cudgel.

The quickest way to distance oneself from this image is to combine the advisor’s identity as a public educator who has joined an organization, preferably a legitimate 501(c)3 Non-Profit, whose mission is to “End Financial Illiteracy Across America, One Community at a Time.” It’s time to stop leading with one’s professional services, promoting products, selling, shaming, and insisting the audience “buy in” what that professional needs to sell that day.

It is upon the advisor to pause, rebrand, and lead the audience with ideas, strategies, and various methods that are solutions to consumers’ issues, coming at them through a caring, compassionate message that is both tactical and practical. By doing this, we give back our best to them while they respond favorably, wanting to meet with us—sharing their “Financial Privacy.”

Jim Chilton is the founder and CEO of SOFA, the Society For Financial Awareness, a 501(c)3 Public Benefit Corporation, a Speaker’s Bureau composed of advisors and other financial professionals who volunteer their time presenting at companies, places of worship, unions, and organizations.

Chilton has been an advisor for 41 years, specializing in retirement planning and pensions.