News & Insight
28th October 2022
We need a culture of giving and gratitude
Last month we spoke to John Nickson – fundraiser turned philanthropist and author – about the greatest challenges we are facing in philanthropy and why we need a culture of ‘giving and gratitude’, meaning that charitable giving is proven to be good for both our mental and physical health as well as good for society.
Before becoming a philanthropist, John was one of Britain’s most experienced fundraising directors having held director of fundraising positions at four national institutions for over 24 years – The British Council, English National Opera, Royal Academy of Arts and Tate. John also has decades of experience as a trustee.
In our conversation John identified the following challenges for philanthropy.
The big picture
We are living in tumultuous times – increasing poverty and inequality, the climate crisis, the war in Ukraine, inflation, geopolitical and market instability. In the UK, we are facing some of the most significant challenges we have faced since World War 2. Although philanthropy cannot solve these, they do present opportunities for philanthropists and the not-for-profit sector. Now more than ever, there is a significant role for those who give.
Charities and not for profits face increasing demand but often lack the capacity and skills to keep up with demand. Charities also have the challenge of raising funds for core costs – which many donors are reluctant to provide. Coupled with rising costs for charities, turbulent market values are making philanthropic commitment that much harder. Although personal wealth has increased dramatically in the past 40 years, giving, according to the CAF, has stagnated as the average household income has declined. The greatest share of wealth created is held by the top one percent. And yet many of those in the top one percent are not philanthropic.
John asserts that this means that we need to make a much more compelling case for philanthropy. The only way we can convince those who are not giving is if we offer them compelling reasons why they should. Donors need to know it is in their personal interests to give. Not only does giving have tax benefits and provide professional and social fulfilment, but most importantly, philanthropy is the bedrock of civil society without which there would be no liberal democracy.
We must prove that targeted philanthropy can be impactful and make a demonstrable difference to social wellbeing. Current philanthropists should lead by example and demonstrate the impact they are already making. Charities must show a greater awareness and understanding of what motivates donors by enhancing donor care, and showing even more initiative and creativity – particularly in the way they collaborate with other charities and not for profits. Government must be persuaded that match funding is a creative and an impactful use of public money, as well as an effective way of mobilising philanthropy.
Philanthropists as catalysts
John Nickson urges philanthropists to act as catalysts through innovative and creative ways of giving, and he is doing so via Our Common Good, a venture philanthropy fund. Co-founded by John and Paul Donovan, Our Common Good plays an entrepreneurial role, acting as a catalyst. The fund invests seed capital in start-up and early stage charitable projects and social enterprises supporting disadvantaged communities, projects which have the potential to thrive, scale and be replicated elsewhere.
One of the projects Our Common Good supports is Growing Minds. The project works with families to address educational inequality by ensuring children from deprived families can enter primary school at an equivalent level to their middle class peers. Growing Minds brought together a coalition of nine charities and two other public bodies in Oxfordshire, all working together outside of their silos on one project – highlighting the importance of collaboration. The project has now been replicated in Suffolk and will also be taken elsewhere.
Community Larders, a social enterprise supported by Our Common Good, addresses food inequality. Members pay a small weekly fee and collect fresh food donated by supermarkets. The project is a community building exercise that enables members to meet each other as well as other charities who can offer advice on anything from fuel poverty to mental health. In addition to financial support, Our Common Good also helped mentor executives and trustees. Community Larders has since expanded from 7 hubs to 22.
Our Common Good’s most recent pledge is to Right to Succeed’s education project in Blackpool which is supported by Blackpool Council and The Department for Education. The project aims to transform outcomes for students in primary and secondary education in one of Britain’s poorest towns. The DfE intends that the Blackpool project should be expanded and replicated elsewhere in the UK and Our Common Good’s support is focused upon enabling this.
Who is responsible
Collaboration across all sectors is key to solving the UK’s most intractable social problems as well as to increasing philanthropic giving and convincing those who can give to do so.
As gatekeepers, private client advisors have a crucial role to play in encouraging and promoting philanthropic giving. Wealth advisors can help position philanthropy as a core activity rather than a ‘nice-to-have’ option, and can encourage important intergenerational conversations about philanthropic giving.
The young generation also has a key role to play. The tension between young peoples’ passion and activism and any distrust they may have of those carrying out and administering solutions, places a great deal of responsibility upon charities to demonstrate that they are relevant and trustworthy. Charities need to be much better informed about their donor’s priorities, needs and expectations. Social projects have to communicate their need effectively and make a compelling case for support.
Whilst we are all individually responsible for creating a culture of giving and gratitude, it is the responsibility of everyone in the not for profit sector to create networks of connectivity that are key to bridging the gaps between the work of charities and social enterprises, the voices of young people, government, wealth advisors and philanthropists. To create a culture of giving and gratitude, effective collaboration and communication is fundamental and that will not happen without greater empathy and understanding between all parties. There is much to do if we are to rise up to and meet the challenges facing us and future generations.
John Nickson is the author of GIVING IS GOOD FOR YOU and OUR COMMON GOOD, both published by Biteback Publishing.
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