Relative Values: A conversation on philanthropy across generations

Last week, the Institute and Barclays hosted an exclusive event in central London on the topic of family philanthropy. Three prominent philanthropists – Hannah Rothschild of the Rothschild Foundation, Anna Southall of the Barrow Cadbury Trust and Katherine Lorenz of The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation – formed a panel, facilitated by Mary Glanville, Managing Director UK of the Institute and introduced by Emma Turner, Director of Client Philanthropy Service at Barclays Wealth and Investment Management, to discuss their personal experiences of giving with an audience of over forty philanthropists.

At the Institute, we regularly consider the issues around next generation philanthropy – both in our education courses for donors as well as in our knowledge development programme – and we appreciate the unique challenges and opportunities that arise when giving as a family. As one panellist said, “family philanthropy can be very difficult – it can sometimes feel as though you have to choose between social impact and your relationship with your family”. Mary facilitated an informative and lively discussion between the panellists, who spoke frankly about their own experiences and in so doing provided practical advice to our audience. Here are some highlights of their discussion:

  • Getting involved in your family’s philanthropy can serve not only to develop understanding of best practice in philanthropy, but can also assist your professional career. One panellist explained that her experience of being a trustee at a young age gave her invaluable knowledge of governance which she used very successfully in her independent career. The knowledge transfer has worked both ways for each of our panellists as expertise gained in their respective careers has also given added dimension to their family’s giving.
  • It’s helpful to encourage the next generation to get involved in philanthropic activity at a very early age – perhaps by ring-fencing small sums of money and asking them to choose how to give it, or getting them to do a pitch on behalf of their chosen charity to the trustees of the foundation.
  • Recruiting trustees and staff members who are not members of your own family can be pivotal in bringing balance in structures dominated by family dynamics, as well as a different perspective to board discussions. You can also gain valuable issue-area expertise that members of your family may not already bring to the table.
  • Recognising the value of your name may enable you to use all of your assets for good; one of our speakers’ trusts took a strategic decision to allow grantees to say that they had received philanthropic money from them as they saw that it helped the groups they support to leverage other funding and strengthen their advocacy initiatives.
  • Think about the future of your family’s trust: consider setting a strategy that means the trust isn’t restricted to funding very specific issues in the future if they are no longer relevant. This may allow each generation to shape the focus of the trust and to ensure that its work is always appropriate for current needs.

The Institute for Philanthropy will be running a two-day education course for next generation philanthropists in London in June. For more information about this course, or any of our other donor education programmes, please contact the The Philanthropy Workshop team on: tpw@instituteforphilanthropy.org

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