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Q&A With PhilanthPro Solutions Founder Nicholas Palahnuk

Foundation Magazine spoke with the founder of a new technology solution for wealth management services, a system which connects financial planning and philanthropy.

Nicholas Palahnuk, CFP®, CIM®, an Investment Advisor and Senior Portfolio Manager, leads The Palahnuk Group. The Palahnuk Group’s vision is to transform the lives of clients through extraordinary wealth management. Toronto-based PhilanthPro Solutions launched new financial planning software designed to help donors plan their giving. PhilanthPro helps financial advisors create and manage goals-based financial plans for charitable accounts. “It’s crazy that we don’t have tools to help people give their money away,” said Palahnuk, who is also CEO of PhilanthPro. “Our whole industry is set up to help people to accumulate wealth.”

Palahnuk has been an advisor for more than a decade, working with clients to build and protect their wealth, but became aware of a lack of sophisticated software for giving money away when he founded his own charitable foundation. He had created The Palahnuk Foundation, which improves mental health for young people by funding innovative programs that create greater mental health resiliency.

Steve Lloyd: Tell me a little about PhilanthPro.

Nicholas Palahnuk: PhilanthPro is a new cloud-based platform built to bring the power of planning to philanthropy. The features include philanthropic financial planning, real-time grant planning, and a suite of organization and management tools.

SL: Who exactly is the software for?

NP: PhilanthPro was built specifically for clients with foundations, charitable trusts, and donor-advised funds.

SL: And what does it cost?

NP: We purposely kept our costs low at $3-$5k per year in order to be relevant to more of the philanthropic community. Appealing to a broader market, we can help more people leverage the software for greater impact, and that’s what excites us.

SL: Tell me a little about yourself, and why you founded PhilanthPro?

NP: I’ve always had a passion for philanthropy. As a teenager, I spent months volunteering in East Africa. I went on to become a wealth manager and spent my career helping people accumulate wealth. With time, I found myself more and more interested in giving back and I set out on my own philanthropic journey. PhilanthPro was an opportunity to bring together my skills as a financial planner and my passion for philanthropy to produce something more meaningful for the world.

SL: How did this all get started?

NP: In its infancy it was just an idea to create better tools for philanthropy that would address problems people faced when they wanted to give their wealth away to help others. From there, we assembled an advisory group of philanthropists and advisors to tell us what their problems were. We listened, asked more questions, and continued to listen. The whole process took over a year to really fine tune what was needed. During this research, we got to work and built prototypes for their feedback. It was quite a dynamic process.

SL: Being a wealth manager, how did you create software?

NP: After we proved our concept, we invested in a relationship with a leading Canadian software development company. Being guided by our vision and market research, we brought to life a platform that addresses the needs of philanthropists.

SL: What was the most challenging aspect of this all?

NP: The most difficult aspect was synthesizing all the feedback we were getting and coming up with a solution that would best address everyone’s issues. We were talking to such a diverse group of people. While everyone had a different perspective, we had to find common ground and build something that would truly solve the key underlying problems. That wasn’t easy.

SL: And what was the most enjoyable aspect?

NP: The reaction of clients. Hands down. Seeing clients “aha” moments when we demo the software is just so remarkable. We recently hired a head of business development, so I don’t get to demo the software very much anymore, but it was just astounding to watch everything click in clients’ minds as we walked through the platform with them. Nothing can compare to knowing you’ve created something truly valuable for people doing extraordinary things with their wealth!

SL: How does someone get started with PhilanthPro?

NP: Probably the best thing would be to see it for yourself to judge whether it’s right for you. Next, I would suggest getting your financial advisor involved since this tool is best used alongside an advisor. Our client care team is always there to help along the way. We really want to foster philanthropy for a brighter future, and our software can help people do just that!