I grew up in suburban Detroit, the youngest of four girls. My mother, a second-generation Japanese American, was one of the thousands that spent time in the internment camps during World War II. My Minnesota farm-boy father served occupation duty in Japan. After his service, he was able to attend college and law school on his GI Bill. My sisters and I were raised to value education.

I graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in economics and Asian studies. But I became interested in the philanthropic sector after taking a class about community development during my senior year. I learned about the power of civic engagement, that even modest amounts of giving could have a significant impact.

After graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for two associations that focused on local governments. At the same time, I attended the Kellogg School at Northwestern University for a master's degree in marketing and non-profit management. I later moved to New York and started my career at Philanthropy New York. I was then hired by the Robin Hood Foundation and in 1998 I joined J.P. Morgan.

Philanthropy is a hot topic these days, but our firm has a 50-year history of helping clients interested in this area. I manage a center that partners with dozens of client advisors. We work with individuals that want to set up foundations in their wills, and also with those in the early stages of giving and philanthropy. More people want to have an impact while they're living and my group provides advice around strategy, non-profit organizations and family issues.

Oftentimes, a person wanting to be charitable has an impulse to create a new non-profit before he or she has scanned the field. We help clients research what's already available so that they can collaborate with an existing organization, rather than create something new. Someone who would never start a company without a business plan might not apply the same philosophy to a charitable endeavor.

One of our clients, for example, had been given responsibility for his family's foundation. He was beginning to explore the philanthropic possibilities and came to us for advice. To help him become grounded in his interests in hunger, social services and education, we arranged for a series of informational meetings with experts who provided context, and presented success stories as well as obstacles.

Advisors interested in learning more about philanthropy should know they have a number of online tools at their disposal, starting with the Gain Knowledge section of the Foundation Center's web site (www.foundationcenter.org).