Archive for the ‘Global Focus’ Category

Sharing the lessons of The Philanthropy Workshop 2013

June 21, 2013

For almost two decades, The Philanthropy Workshop has worked to create a dynamic network of strategic philanthropists who today are making a difference all around the world. As the latest cohort (our 19th!) recently finished the programme in New York, we wanted to share some of their key lessons from the year, and exciting plans for what they will do next.

This year’s group, hailing from the US, Canada, the Philippines, Sweden and the UK began the programme in London in October 2012, and travelled through Argentina and Chile in March before completing the course in May.

Perhaps the most poignant observation from this year’s programme was the relevance of sustainability to all causes people seek to positively advance. Traversing the dramatic wild landscapes in Patagonia illuminated how our well-being is inextricably intertwined with the well-being of the natural world around us. In the words of one of our hosts: “The full realisation of the human being, in a context of individual, social and environmental harmony, is the central focus of sustainable development”. Many members of the cohort expressed that this deeper appreciation for the issue of sustainability will undoubtedly influence their philanthropy- and indeed many other aspects of their lives.

A theme which recurred throughout this year’s programme is that of collaboration- not just among donors or their beneficiaries, but across the whole spectrum of agents and stakeholders in any given issue. The “Theory of Aligned Contributions” helped the group think through what role they might play in achieving impact collectively with others.  As one participant reflected at the end of our final week: “fitting your contributions into the right partnership unlocks great potential.” A number of participants were particularly struck by the recommendation to remember to speak to those who they do not agree with, and to look for allies in unexpected places.

A liberating tip offered this year is to “fail forward,” as one member of the group described it; “starting with what you can and evolving as you go, aiming for progress and not perfection, and learning from your mistakes.” And we were reminded that philanthropy is a practice. As much as TPW is about giving emerging philanthropists the time and space to develop their giving strategies, there is only so much that can be set out on paper and there is much to be learned by doing.

At the end of the programme, we had the opportunity to hear from each participant about their philanthropic plans, which, among other things, will include incubating and scaling social enterprises in the Philippines; connecting social activists around the globe with vital advocacy resources and tools; developing a portfolio of organisations in Stockholm to improve prospects for some of the world’s poorest girls; changing the trajectory of vulnerable women in Canada; and preserving some of the last remaining intact ecosystems in the United States.

Written by Natalie Tucker, Programme Officer for The Philanthropy Workshop

We look forward to welcoming our 20th Cohort to TPW this October, for information about joining us please see here or contact The Philanthropy Workshop team at or on +44 (0) 207 040 0262 (in the UK) or +1 212 513 0020 (in the US).


After The Giving Pledge: Giving Behaviour of 22 Donors

June 4, 2013

In February this year, the Gates Foundation announced that the Giving Pledge, founded by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010, would for the first time extend its invitation to wealthy donors outside the US.  They added twelve signatories from eight non-US countries, bringing the total number of those who have so far taken the Pledge to 105. In response to this announcement, we conducted a survey of our own network of philanthropists to gauge their attitudes to the Pledge, the results of which can be viewed here. The findings of the survey raised several interesting points, of which the question of timeframe over which to disburse philanthropic assets was one.

To drill deeper into this issue, and to respond to interest from alumni of our donor education programmes, we asked philanthropists within our networks about the rate at which they intend to deploy their philanthropic assets.  They provided us with the following response about their giving behaviour.

About the 22 donors who responded to our survey

  • They come from the UK, the US, Brazil, Canada, Lebanon and Mexico;
  • They give away an annual average of $2,168,050;
  • Their foundations have an average endowment of $79,081,250;
  • Their areas of philanthropic giving, in order of frequency, are: education; children and youth; community re-generation; environment; healthcare; international development; women and girls; board governance; impact investing; reproductive health; film as a vehicle for social change; local charities; technology; transparency; human rights; encouraging philanthropy; encouraging non-profit impact; alleviation of poverty; religion; and historic preservation.
  • Eight donors had made provision for their families to pursue their own philanthropic goals separate to their own philanthropy.  Eight had not, and four others had not yet decided.

The rates of their giving

  • Of the twenty-two donors, seven had decided the precise time-frames within which they were looking to give away all of their philanthropic capital.  Three of them aim to do so within the next ten years; two of them aim to do so five to ten years after their death; one over the next five to eight years; and one over the course of the next twenty years.
  • One of the donors commented that “I strongly believe that philanthropy can be more effective when driven by the wishes and strategy of a living donor. Long-lasting philanthropic institutions can become sclerotic and bureaucratic, not always but often. Family foundations may end up with their hands tied, by a legacy directed at tackling a social problem that no longer exists. Innovation and risk taking is often reduced.
  • Another stated thatRisk taking and innovation are crucial for philanthropy. Philanthropy needs to be able to adapt as social problems and the needs of society change over time.”

The percentages of their giving


The values and beliefs that drive their giving

  • “Partnership: the more we (civil society, philanthropists, NGOs and activists) can work together towards a cause, the faster we can move the needle.  Engagement: not only personal engagement, but moral and legal and financial engagement.  Empower the organisation so they do the best they can to move the needle. Help the executive team to excel in their strategy and operations to achieve their mission and reach goals they have set with their trustees (and other constituencies).”
  • “I focus on leadership and because my funds are limited, I support smallish charities with dynamic leadership in unattractive and unpopular fields where it is difficult to raise funds.”
  • “Philanthropic capital should be deployed in the most strategic way possible.”
  • “I generally believe in addressing the needs of underserved poor in the neediest parts of the world (where I have worked for much of my professional life), not the arts or environmental needs so popular among donors here at home, or SOBs (symphony, opera, ballet) – as much as I love them personally.”
  • “Everybody deserves the opportunity to grow in a safe environment, with responsible, caring and self-sufficient parents, as well, to receive quality education. Seeing how many individuals and communities have improved their lives as a result of my father´s work in philanthropy is the best example of the importance of philanthropy in my life.”

For more information please contact:

Mary Glanville

+44 (0) 207 2400626

A response to the Giving Pledge announcement

February 19, 2013

The Giving Pledge is the most high profile public campaign promoting philanthropy among the wealthy. A unique, international survey of high net worth individuals has been conducted by the Institute for Philanthropy which reveals the attitudes of philanthropists to the Giving Pledge.

The majority of respondents (68.4%) estimate that they will give up to 50% of their wealth in their lifetimes. Of the 26.3% of respondents who estimated that they will give at least 50% of their wealth in their lifetimes less than half (four of ten) have signed up to the Giving Pledge or adopted its principles.  Two people (5%) did not respond to this question. 18.42% estimate they will give between 51-75% of wealth; 7.9% estimate they will give over 76% of wealth.  Furthermore, the majority have already decided the way in which they will carry out their giving (in their lifetimes, or through a vehicle after their death, for example).

David Sainsbury, one of the new Giving Pledge signatories announced today, explains his motivations for philanthropy: “A number of years ago my wife, Susie, and I decided that spending any more money on ourselves or our family would not add anything to our happiness, but that using it to support social progress was something that we both found deeply fulfilling. We, therefore, decided to transfer gradually most of our wealth to our charitable trusts, and looking back that has turned out to be a very life-enhancing decision.”

The motive for the four philanthropists who completed the survey and who have signed up to the Giving Pledge or have adopted principles is “Wish to devote the majority of wealth to good causes”, not “Wish to encourage other people to become more involved in philanthropy” or “Belief that wealth is a burden on future generations”.

Interestingly, our results indicate that the number of philanthropists who have already made the decision to commit the majority of their wealth to good causes is potentially much greater than the Giving Pledge campaign implies.

This could be due to a low level of knowledge of the Pledge among philanthropists (just over half of the respondents had heard of the Giving Pledge and knew what it consisted of (55.2%) and of those who have not heard of the Giving Pledge, half are in the UK (four people) and half in North America (three from the US and one from Canada)).

There are however other factors beyond a lack of knowledge: our survey found that the most common consideration behind not signing the Pledge or adopting principles is a desire to remain private. The second most popular consideration was a wish to pass wealth to future generations.


  • Respondents came from seven different countries, the UK (39.5%) and US (36.8%) were the most common geographies, however we also had respondents from Canada, Mexico, Netherlands, Finland and Italy.
  • The average annual giving of respondents is $1,532,941 (result possibly skewed by two donors who are giving away very large sums of money). One third of respondents are giving away at least $1m annually.
  • Of those who have signed up or have adopted the principles of the Giving Pledge, these people are giving away at least $1m philanthropically a year
  • The timeframe in which giving will take place is fairly mixed: 26.3% said the majority of giving would be carried out during the philanthropists lifetime, 31.5% said that there would be a vehicle for philanthropy after their death, and 29% said that they had not decided yet.
  • The majority of respondents reported they believed that the Giving Pledge would result in an increase in philanthropic money (71%).
  • Many respondents expressed the belief that the role of philanthropy was not just to “throw money at problems”; rather it should be well-researched, thought through and strategically deployed for impact. As one donor said of the Giving Pledge: “money shouldn’t be the only thing acknowledged”.
  • The survey was distributed throughout an influential network of philanthropists, many of whom have graduated from The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW) programme which educates major donors in the skills of strategic philanthropy.
  • 38 people responded to the survey

For more information please contact:

Daisy Wakefield,

+44 (0) 207 2400626

Philanthropy Lesson #010: Business and Charity aren’t Black and White (Microfinance)

January 19, 2011

It is one of society’s great fallacies that business and charity are viewed by some as polar opposites. This perspective (as ubiquitous as it is incorrect) is based on the premise that one is either out to make a profit or selflessly doing social good. The rise of microfinance institutions represented a significant step in the blurring of this diametric, and served to slowly introduce to the world the idea that you don’t have to employ traditional charity models to do social good. As these ideas become more pervasive and widespread, we find that individuals and institutions start to appear standing between the capitalist and the charity worker (the diametric personified). The image then comes to represent a scale in which an organisation balances input, impact and output according to how they prioritise profit and social good.

If we continue with the image of a sliding scale, the rolling out of microfinance structures was revolutionary in its moderateness – it sits somewhere in the middle of the scale, employing business models for social benefit. Muhammad Yunus, who established the now widely-replicated Grameen Bank in 1983, remains a key proponent of this model, and is often credited with the generation and subsequent success of the structure. Yunus’ microfinance is one that is strictly not-for-profit. Part of the beauty of microfinance was that it broke the diametric, but of course this did not preclude the possibility of some breaking it down further.  As the microfinance model became more successful, some organisations shifted on the scale to start operating a limited for-profit microfinance model, much to the consternation of its originators.

Yunus’ condemnation of the approaches of Mexico’s Compartamos and India’s SKS Microfinance institutions is based on the belief that profit-making is intrinsically incompatible with the alleviation of poverty. In making this argument, Yunus adds another dimension to our scale, which, arguably, is a distinctively normative one. Matthew Bishop, responsible for the most audible rebuttals of Yunus’ article, focuses his attention on this added dimension, claiming:  ‘even in the most optimistic scenario for philanthropy, it seems inconceivable to us [philanthrocapitalists] that there will be enough charitable capital to meet the demand for microfinance from the world’s poor any time soon’. The implication here is that in order for microfinance industry to survive, it needs to attract private investors who will look for profit margins. Bishop suggests that this is a sacrifice worth making for greater social justice. This was also the view taken by SKS’ founder Vikram Akula in a Forbes India interview in 2009, notably before the crisis in microcredit occurred.

This debate comes just as a group of philanthropists gathered at the Institute to prepare for their developing world module of The Philanthropy Workshop, which will take place in India in March. The afternoon comprised of an afternoon’s learning around microcredit in India, but in actual fact the links between TPW and strategic philanthropy and the Yunus and Bishop discussion are more pervasive than the day’s learnings. Ultimately the lessons that must be learnt through these linkages are about the placement of an individual, organization or approach on that sliding scale we started with, where the balance of profit and social impact  are the determinates of that positioning.

Philanthropy Lesson #009: Share success stories (with thanks to Sunil Mittal)

November 9, 2010

The Indian telecoms magnate and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, Sunil Mittal, was named ‘Philanthropist of the Year’ at the inaugural session of the Asian Awards last week for his contribution in the area of education for the underprivileged. In many ways, Mittal’s newest accolade is conspicuous on the global philanthropy landscape, not only because Indian philanthropy has suffered a relatively poor reputation in the international giving tables, but because as an Indian philanthropist focussing his efforts towards his home nation he is part of an even smaller minority.

But why are Mittal’s philanthropic endeavours so incongruous with his country’s typical giving profile? Commentators cite a variety of different factors to explain this phenomenon, from India’s Janus-faced reputation in the international political economy as a country home to immense wealth and crippling poverty, to a preoccupation amongst India’s new (very) wealthy with high profile and audacious donations to their (often American, Ivy league) alma maters. That is one view; yet it is possible that these analyses are suffering from a case of short-sightedness. As Arpan Sheth of Bain & Co. highlights in his March 2010 report, India’s giving (quantified as % of GDP) actually leads that of other developing nations, ahead of both China and Brazil, for example. Others suggest that giving in India is not quantified simply by monetary donation, rather that the economy of giving is regulated through complex networks of cultural, religious and familial norms that cannot be articulated on a spreadsheet. Whatever the reasoning behind the trends in Indian philanthropy, however, one thing is clear: that there are too few visible Indian philanthropists, such as Sunil Mittal, with a focus on their native country, and opportunities to promote fantastic philanthropic work such as his ought to be celebrated.

Philanthropy Lesson #007: Invest in Talent (with thanks to Oxford and Blavatnik)

September 21, 2010

One of the more welcome orthodoxies in philanthropy is that donors should invest in the talent within an organisation; or, in sector-speak, “build capacity”. For that reason, it’s heartening to see Leonard Blavatnik’s recent gift of £75million to Oxford University, so that they can establish a School of Government there. The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, commented that “the School represents a huge milestone in Oxford’s history. It will give tomorrow’s leaders the best of Oxford’s traditional strengths alongside new and practical ways of understanding and addressing the challenges of good governance. The University has educated 26 British Prime Ministers and over 30 other world leaders, yet until now the major international schools of government have all been outside Europe, principally in the United States. The establishment of the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford will correct that imbalance.”

More pertinently, the School, and Blavatnik’s gift, implies a belief that great leaders are not only born but nurtured. The School’s aim is to create a growing network of governance graduates, effectively building a “brains trust” whose collective knowledge and experience will help them to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. That is strategic philanthropy in action; and, for that reason, it deserves a thumbs-up.

Philanthropy Lesson #006: There’s No One Way to Lead

September 20, 2010

If philanthropy in 2010 has a theme, then it is that of leadership.  Earlier this year, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates launched the Giving Pledge, encouraging their peers to give half of their wealth to charity.  Their initiative was met with a swift and positive response from dozens of donors in the US, with forty philanthropists coming out in its support.  In taking this welcome lead, Buffett and Gates opened themselves to scepticism from sections of the media and the wider public, who wondered whether they would succeed in delivering solutions for any of the social problems that they had set out to tackle. But scepticism is a hurdle which, though often confronted by leaders, rarely deters them.

At the Institute, we have been lucky to welcome to dinner a leader who – in a far more perilous context than that of Gates and Buffett – was greeted with not only scepticism but hostility when he made the defining move of his career.  FW de Klerk, the former President of South Africa who was instrumental in the dismantling of apartheid, addressed an audience of philanthropists with whom we work.  Having left office several years ago, he is now a founding member of the Global Leadership Foundation, which “exists to improve the quality of political leadership and governance by enabling today’s national leaders to benefit from the experience of former leaders.” 

The model is an interesting one: the Global Leadership Foundation is “a network of former Presidents, Prime Ministers, senior ministers and other distinguished leaders who make their experience available discreetly” to other heads of state grappling with tough problems.

If the Gates and Buffett campaign is public and de Klerk’s is behind the scenes, we get a rich view of the varied forms and styles of leadership that are needed to advance solutions to social problems.  As with so much in philanthropic work there is no one formula, no one-size-fits-all intervention.

Interestingly, these varied leadership styles are reflected in our own network, with a number of the donors we are privileged to work with seeking large public advocacy roles and others achieving results, like President de Klerk, behind closed doors.   Public leadership vs. quiet leadership?  I say we need both.

Philanthropy Lesson #004: “Tell Tales”

September 9, 2010

Philanthropy is a field dominated by facts and figures.  Donors and advisors alike, understandably keen to show that they are making significant strides in the areas of their choice, are increasingly focused upon the clear and careful evaluation of their work. 

This is a welcome development; yet it is important that it does not come at the expense of an intangible but no less important part of the philanthropy world, that of storytelling.

Storytelling is one of the most valuable aspects of philanthropy.  Before the first cheque of grant money is given, there must be a strategy; before the strategy is drawn up, there must be a vision of a successful story that will be enabled by that cheque. 

An example: in an item that tops our week’s Press Highlights, George Soros has just awarded $100million to Human Rights Watch, the largest-ever sum that this organisation has received.  And whilst Mr. Soros was undoubtedly drawn to the charity’s efficiency, the chances are that he was also taken with its compelling narrative of the world that it was working to bring about.

Some months ago, The BBC World Service ran a piece on their website on this very subject, noting that their listeners were as interested in their “soft” stories – i.e., those with an element of human interest – as their “hard” stories, which had a tougher, somewhat worthier edge.  Indeed, it’s notable that some of the most successful organisations we have encountered – like, say, Atlantic Philanthropies – are those who can not only crunch the numbers but also provide vivid illustrations of their work.  That’s why efforts such as those by The Daily Tell should be applauded; a website which takes time every few days to highlight the success stories in charitable giving.  Long may they, and many others in the philanthropic sector, continue telling tales.