18th November 2015Yvonne Rainey
Innovative Philanthropy: New Ways to Respond to Growing Demand
We were delighted to support this Philanthropy Impact event last night kindly hosted by Sir Vernon Ellis, Chair of the British Council in his wonderful home.
The panel comprised John Nickson, Campaigner for Philanthropy and author; Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of the Big Lottery Fund; Lucy Blythe, Director Philia International and Rory Brooks Founding Partner, MML Capital Partners.
In the face of a retreating state, the demands upon the voluntary sector will only increase. So how do we address this issue if we are to sustain civil society for future generations?
Statistics on charitable giving vary widely depending on which report you read but it is clear that despite a phenomenal growth in personal wealth since the 1980s, charitable giving has remained static. Coutts reports more million pound gifts but NPC says half of top rate tax-payers feel no obligation to give to charity.
Should we be giving more or should the voluntary sector be taking less?
It was suggested that the focus should be on helping others to help themselves. Massive cuts to local authority funding mean that more and more of them are looking to organisations such as community foundations and local giving which have grown significantly over the last few years. Community Foundations are collectively the 10th largest donor in the UK.
We must be careful of lecturing the wealthy to give more to charity when they might say that their businesses and consumerism provides employment and drives the economy which benefits everyone.
Should Philanthropy replace the state? The panellists all agreed that Philanthropy cannot and should not replace the state but it has a place in public private partnerships such as ‘youth zones’ which are funded by local authorities, external funders and the local community. These are great examples of local communities coming together to identify a need and devise a solution that directly benefits them. It can be dangerous for philanthropists to consider themselves the experts on what potential beneficiaries may or may not need.
Do charities have a monopoly on doing good? The amount given to charity pales into insignificance beside the amount the government spends on welfare, pensions, health and education. The UK spent nearly £12 billion on foreign aid last year (0.7% of gross national income) which dwarfs the amount coming from charitable donations.
What is the answer? We need a cultural shift in thinking which will only come about if the next generation are made aware of their civic duty. It should start in primary school.
Charities and Grant giving organisations need to adapt and change e.g. the Garfield Weston Foundation is partnering with the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Clore Duffield Foundation to help local communities.
Lucy Blythe suggested that Philanthropy, like the slow food movement, should be much more thoughtful and considered if it is to be effective. She has coined the phrase ‘slow philanthropy’ that we predict will join our lexicons!
All agreed that those who give, give because they can, because it makes them feel good and most importantly because they feel passionately about the cause and feel engaged with the organisation. Philanthropy should be beneficiary driven not donor driven.
I will end with my favourite quote from the night from an anonymous donor “If you haven’t given you haven’t lived”.