Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

TPW Alumni are honoured at the Spears Wealth Management Awards

November 6, 2012

The great and the good of the private wealth management world turned out last Tuesday for the Spears Wealth Management Awards, which this year took place at auction house Phillips de Pury in London. The awards, which are now in their sixth year, celebrate the UK’s top wealth managers, philanthropists, lawyers, and entrepreneurs for their successes, innovations and acumen in the year 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012. Whilst we could not attend the evening ourselves, we were so pleased to hear that this year the two awards for philanthropy (Philanthropist of the Year and Lifetime Achievement in Philanthropy award) were given to the Indigo Trust’s Fran Perrin, and The Funding Network’s Fred Mulder, both of whom are alumni of the Institute’s Philanthropy Workshop.

Fran Perrin, who is also a trustee of the Institute for Philanthropy, was awarded Philanthropist of the Year for her work with the Indigo Trust, a London-based grant-making foundation which supports technology driven projects to bring about social change, largely in African countries. The trust, which is still relatively young, has made great impact in affecting change in the areas in which it works, primarily in innovation, transparency and citizen-empowerment. Importantly, the Indigo Trust also represents a fantastic example of a truly strategic foundation: by investing in locally-driven initiatives, the trust is able to catalyse further social change in the communities in which its grantees work.

Fred Mulder, with three other donors, founded The Funding Network (TFN), “the friendly Dragons’ Den for charities”, in 2002. The premise of TFN is simple: that giving is more interesting, more satisfying, and probably more competent if it is done in the company of other people. One of the first open giving circles in the UK, TFN has quickly become a huge success, regularly attracting a diverse mixture of donors who are pitched to by local, national and international charitable projects. To date, TFN groups across the country have raised over £4 million for over 590 charities, an enormous achievement. Fred was also the winner of the Judges Special Beacon Fellowship Prize in March 2004, and was awarded a CBE for Services to Philanthropy in the 2012 New Year honours list.

In response to receiving the award, Fran Perrin said last week:

“I’m surprised and delighted to be awarded the Spears Wealth Management Awards Philanthropist of the Year. I hope this recognises both my passion for strategic philanthropy and also the importance of using modern technologies to improve lives across African countries. I’m very proud of the work of the Indigo Trust and the fantastic team who make it possible to support extraordinary individuals and projects.

I’m particularly pleased to see the Spears Lifetime Achievement in Philanthropy award go to Dr Frederick Mulder who, like me, has worked with the Institute for Philanthropy to help donors achieve impact.”

Both awards are extremely well-deserved, and we congratulate both Fran and Fred for their fantastic contribution to philanthropy.


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:

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 #008: You need more than a hammer

November 2, 2010

If you’re struggling to tackle a complex social problem, and have been for a while, maybe its time to review your ‘tool kit’. Are you adopting the right strategies to get the job done, and are you being as effective as you can possibly be in your giving? Abraham Maslow once said “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. It could be that you are pounding away at every social problem instead of unscrewing it. The solution: Innovation. Steven Johnson recommends you throw yourself headfirst into spaces that stimulate thinking and conversation – spend some more time on the Internet, extend your meeting in the Conference room, or even linger at the water-cooler during work if that means being surrounded by different opinions. From Teach for America to Grameen Bank, from Gmail to GPS, all great ideas are born out of a network of experiences, slowly fading into view over time. The trick to being innovative, creative and effective is placing yourself in an environment where these networks are likely to be formed. After all, when chance favours the connected mind, you’ll have more to use than just a hammer.

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 #005: Think Small (with thanks to Aik Saath)

September 14, 2010

Philanthropy is a world where you often hear uncomfortably lofty language; there are times when the ambitions of donors seem grandiose, if not unattainable altogether.  Tackling climate change?  Eradicating poverty?  These are problems of great complexity, and it often seems futile even to attempt their solution.

In making such an attempt, the goal – somewhat paradoxically – is to think small; to look to the roots, and particularly the grassroots, of a social issue.  This was a lesson illustrated by Aik Saath, one of the recipients of £3,000 from our Youth and Philanthropy Initiative.  Aik Saath was formed in response to ethnic unrest between Asian youths in Slough, a town a few miles from London; its successful approach was based upon engaging carefully with those closest to the problem.  They set up dispute resolution groups composed not of external advisors, but of young people who were directly affected by the rising threats and violence.  Taught by Dr. Dudley Weeks, a world expert in the field of conflict resolution, these teenagers responded so decisively that within only two years the trouble that had so sharply flared was swiftly doused.

When looking at problems of a global scale, it’s often tempting – and reassuring – to look for grand solutions.  But more often than not, as Aik Saath have shown, it’s best to look closest to home for your answers; in other words, to think small.

Philanthropy Lesson#001: “Failure is Good”

July 28, 2010

Welcome to “Philanthropy Lessons”, the Institute for Philanthropy‘s blog on donor education.  In this blog, we’ll draw attention to the most pressing issues in the field of strategic philanthropy: and we’ll  share with you both our own views, and those of innovative people whose work contains valuable lessons for thoughtful donors everywhere.

The first topic is that of failure: a topic not often touched upon in philanthropy or, for that matter, in many other disciplines, where the emphasis is on putting your best foot forward at all costs.  Yet much can be learned from falling short.  As the saying goes, “if you hit the bullseye every time, you’re standing too close to the dartboard”; often, a failure to achieve your objectives in your philanthropy can pave the way for a more nuanced, and most likely more successful, approach. 

It’s with that in mind that we link to an article on this very topic; “Positive Failure”, by David Simms in the Harvard Business Review.  Setting the standard for many Philanthropy Lessons to follow, it is an invigorating and thought-provoking read.