The issue of ‘next-gen’ giving – the philanthropic passions and commitments of a new generation of wealth holders – is a hot topic in philanthropy.
Not only can their resources potentially change society for the better but they are also a central part of a relatively new professional class in the sector – philanthropy advisors. Philanthropy advisors – professionals in banks, consultancies and funds – typically advise private clients on their philanthropy. They rarely have a high profile but actually play a critical role in the development of philanthropy. That’s because philanthropy advisors help guide the giving strategies of the wealthy (HNWI’s or high net worth individual in the jargon). This can have a significant effect both on the families themselves and wider society depending on how well they do their job.
As a multi-trillion transfer of wealth gets underway, it was therefore timely to see this topic on the agenda this week at a gathering of leading philanthropy advisors in London. The meeting, titled ‘Millenials and Philanthropy’ was the fourth in a series of training and networking programme for philanthropy advisors jointly organised by philanthropy support organisations, Philanthropy Impact and STEP. Other sessions had already covered international trends in philanthropy, transparency and risk, and models of giving.
It was appropriate to see a relatively young (all under 35 at a guess!) and majority female panel debating the topic.
The event was chaired by Olivia Jenkins from JP Morgan’s philanthropy advisory team, In her opening remarks, she noted that a new generation of philanthropists are typically more visible and assertive, committed to impact (both qualitative and quantitative), and influenced by narratives. They are also willing to embrace change and learn from errors.
This view was echoed by philanthropy consultant Morgan Kaint who highlighted a shift to what she called ‘value alignment’ between partners rather than a more top-down ‘donor-recipient’ relationship. Despite her expertise in using tech for social change Kainth also emphasised the importance of ‘in-person connections’ and networks and the need to curate ‘offline communities’. Most of all, she pointed to a trend towards the integration of values – a more embedded view of ‘purpose’ – rather than a dichotomy between work and life.
Interestingly, Jenkins echoing this shift to a more integrated approach referring to a ‘whole house’ approach to philanthropy, Citing the example of human trafficking. She suggested that ‘it is not just an issue to be addressed by grants but also by sustainable investing’.
While these shifts trends might seem un-controversial, and perhaps even inevitable, they are clearly not without challenges.
Louisa Brassey, a co-founder of philanthropy consultancy Greenwood Place, which helps families fulfil their philanthropic potential, highlighted a desire among wealthy young people to give time and energy as well as money. She noted the need for greater transparency, a willingness to work with the grain of one’s family office (for example avoiding sector jargon), be patient and persistent, build trust and show humility. Brassey’s comments stood out because she was talking from personal experience: she has helped build her own family foundation over the last two years – placing ‘community agency’ at the heart of its work.
However, it seems likely that not all efforts to bridge the generational divide will succeed. The final panellist, Dayo Okewale, a social entrepreneur and political adviser to Lord Hastings, spoke bluntly of the ongoing disruption to conventional thinking. ‘Charities must change or die’, he warned.
In the discussion, Amy Blackwell from CAF reflected on Okewale’s comments. She expressed concerns about a ‘culture clash’ in which millennial donors back novel ideas but charities working within traditional models need un-restricted funding. Older generations of charity trustees might worry about what could lost in the march to embed ‘value’ through social investment or other innovations.
The event was also notable for news that a cross-parliamentary group devoted to philanthropy is being established with support from Lord Janvrin, senior advisor of HSBC bank, private Secretary to The Queen and chair of Philanthropy Impact. How to do the most good with millennial wealth – both made and inherited – will surely be near the top of the agenda of that new group if this engaging, lively and well-attended discussion is anything to go by.
For more on next generation philanthropy, see this interview with Antonis Schwarz from our March 2018 magazine.
Charles Keidan is editor of Alliance magazine