Archive for July, 2012

Our CEO Kurt Hoffman at Environmental Finance’s 2012 Impact Investing conference

July 31, 2012

Kurt Hoffman will be moderating a panel discussion on ‘Collaborations and Partnerships’ at Environmental Finance‘s ‘Impact Investing 2012’ conference on the 4th October in London. The day-long conference will analyse and debate the most effective ways for investors to generate environmental, social and financial returns, and will also feature a keynote address from Lord Fink, Chief Executive Officer of ISAM.

The Institute ran a series of seminars on investing for impact in 2011 (the results of which you can see on our website here) and this topic is one of Kurt’s key areas of expertise, developed over the eleven years he spent first as architect and then as Director of the Shell Foundation.  To coincide with this year’s London Alumni Reunion starting on the 17th of October, the Institute will also be running a day-long ‘Deep Dive’ course that will provide an in-depth exploration of donor collaboration and partnerships.

To read more about the conference, please click here. Environmental Finance have generously offered a 30% discount for members of the TPW alumni network. For more details about how to claim this discount, please contact Daisy Wakefield on +44 (0)20 7240 0262 or


Charlie Laing’s reflections on the 2012 YPI end of year event

July 13, 2012

Friend of the Institute, Charlie Laing, has written a great blog post on the 2012 Youth Philanthropy Initiative end of year event. We were delighted to mark the milestone of £1 million given away through YPI in the UK since the programme started, and we celebrated in style with acts including magician Drummond Money-Coutts and Britain’s Got Talent‘s The Loveable Rogues. You can read Charlie’s thoughts here, or you can follow our coverage from the event on Twitter via @ypi_england or #ypievent2012

If you think YPI is as great as we do, you may want to check out the latest job opportunity with the fabulous YPI team here.

Lessons from the ‘charity tax’: a blog post by Matthew Bowcock on

July 10, 2012

Writing on the Civil Society blog on Monday 9th July, TPW alumnus and Chair of the Community Foundation Network, Matthew Bowcock, warns that while the prospect of a curb on tax relief for major donations is consigned to history for now, the sector should not assume that it has disappeared forever.

Reflecting upon the debate around the proposed ‘Charity Tax’, Matthew makes several interesting observations about the changing nature of the philanthropy sector in the UK. Among other points, Matthew suggests that the Charity Tax debate has highlighted the increasing independence of charities and philanthropists, has emphasised the need for better data on philanthropy, and has shown just how fragile British philanthropy now is.

Matthew concludes the piece by saying:

“Philanthropists should expect that they will come under increasing scrutiny and pressure to justify the public benefits that their giving delivers in return for tax reliefs. In any future debate philanthropy must find better ways to argue its value by presenting the benefits that it brings to society and correcting public misunderstanding. Evidence needs to go beyond quantifying the amount of giving, which is a crude ‘input’ measure, and include the economic and quantifiable social value delivered by philanthropic investments in projects, as well as the substantial benefit of time, talent and other non-financial resources that major donors often commit to the charities they support. Only then will the true value of independent philanthropy be appreciated and its role established in Britain’s culture.”

Matthew Bowcock’s blog post offers much food for thought, and we recommend that you take the time to read it. The full article is available on the Civil Society website via this link:

‘Making Giving More Effective’: Kurt Hoffman’s comment on the UK Government’s latest giving paper

July 2, 2012

Kurt Hoffman

In late June, the government published an update to its Giving White paper of one year ago. Unlike the Treasury’s more recent attempts to meddle with taxation and charitable giving, the update failed to generate major headlines but it’s a telling reminder of what government thinks must be done to swell the contribution of the charitable sector.

The overarching aim of the White Paper is to make giving a social norm among people from all walks of life. Alongside an expanding menu of measures to boost voluntarism, the thrust of the government’s initiative is to boost overall financial giving to something like US levels by making donating to charity easier and more compelling.

So taking the US as its cue, the government reiterated its commitment to encouraging more payroll giving and legacy gifts, both of which are an order of magnitude higher across the Atlantic. It’s estimated that if leaving 10% of one’s estate to charity became the UK social norm, a further £1 billion a year could be channelled to good causes.

But just as the Treasury mistakenly assumed its tax relief reduction proposals wouldn’t reduce charitable giving, there’s a danger the government is equating more giving with a de facto equivalent improvement in measurable impact.

This assumption ignores an inherent contradiction in the way society gives, as well as mounting evidence that the effectiveness of charities and philanthropy can vary widely. Asked if we want our donations to do as much good as possible, we nod our heads in unison. In reality, we primarily support charities we know of personally or whose marketing message we find compelling. So despite instinctively wanting our giving to have maximum impact, we rarely try to uncover the most effective charity working on the issue that concerns us. By the same token, there’s no incentive for cash hungry charities to proactively tell us how much better their rivals are at tackling the same issue.

Similar disconnects also mar relationships between major donors and big charities. Understandably, but at great ultimate cost to needy beneficiaries and society, there are no market-based or regulatory drivers to marshall donations towards the most effective charities and delivery methods.

This explains the likelihood (based on lessons from the better studied US charity sector) of there being great variation in both the quality of UK grant making and the comparative performance of recipients. So although £51 billion passes through the coffers of 180,000+ UK registered charities each year, what guarantee is there that any new money triggered by the government’s Agenda for Giving will achieve the greatest impact if it doesn’t reach the best charities?

Thankfully, we do know that a proportion of UK philanthropic funding does achieve maximum impact. For the past ten years, the Institute for Philanthropy has worked with philanthropists across three continents to help them systematically ensure their contributions work as hard as possible. We call this “strategic philanthropy” and among our UK alumni we can point to examples of a philanthropic intervention catalysing unexpected solutions to social problems involving unforeseen partnerships, breakthrough innovations and scalable delivery models.

This is philanthropy at its very best – and rarest. It’s the stuff of risk-taking, leveraged collaboration and unearthing the best solutions. And given the declining state of public finances and the enduring backdrop of economic crisis, we urgently need more of it. But taking this rarified form of philanthropy to scale won’t come from government simply asking society to be more generous. Nor will it happen simply by asking charities to individually measure and report on their impacts.

Creating the preconditions for catalytic philanthropy to emerge as the dominant feature of the third sector will only happen if policymakers, analysts and philanthropists themselves make it a strategic objective.

To do this, debate must first move beyond a dominant concern with how much people give. In its place, a rigourous programme of economic research and comparative case study analysis is required to uncover exactly how the most impactful examples of philanthropy actually work and why.

Unlocking this potential is perhaps the greatest prize in philanthropy. As such, a forward thinking vanguard of donors must make it their mission to challenge traditional philanthropic practice with new and disruptive patterns of giving that will ultimately lead the entire third sector to improve its performance and fulfil its true potential.

It will involve seeding new intermediaries and platforms capable of aggregating donors funds and dispensing catalytic thinking that – unlike trying to raise levels of giving – cannot be rolled be out and measured in a single electoral term. Yet it is government, alongside the neediest groups in society, that would be the biggest winner. Solving our most pressing social problems demands nothing less.

This post first appeared on the Huffington Post’s Politics page: