Quicker up the philanthropy learning curve


Cheryl Chapman


How long does it take to become a high-performing philanthropist?

Doug Balfour, CEO of Geneva Global has been advising major donors for 25 years on projects in developing countries, and believes ‘there are no natural born philanthropists… Philanthropy, like everything else you want to do well, has a learning curve.’

Advice from peers or professionals can help on this road to impactful philanthropy, but it is donors themselves that need the skills to be able to find the information they need. They need to be able to ask the right questions and acquire the ability to tell the difference between good and bad charitable projects.

It is with that aim in mind that we are piloting our workshop to teach these skills to City millennials (aged early twenties to early forties). In half a day ‘DonorWISE’ (which stands for Well-Informed, Strategic and Engaged) will equip participants with the basics of effective philanthropy and short circuit that seven-year learning curve. Caroline Fiennes, author of the no-nonsense guide to effective giving, It Ain’t What You Give It’s The Way That You Give It, delivers the course and scores of nuggets such as why in fact it is more impactful to support causes that are less easy to photograph (it means you are working further upstream and therefore likely to affect more people!)

Why focus on young City professionals?
There is growing evidence of an appetite among ‘millennials’ to align their values with their career. A just published survey by Ernst & Young finds graduates think company culture is more important than remuneration.  They take a left and right hand side of the brain approach to their lives; unlike yesteryear philanthropists who tended to do money and career first, and then became donors as part of a retirement plan.  A 2014 report, Global Tolerance – The Values Revolution, shows 84 per cent of millennials consider it their duty to make a positive difference through their lifestyle; and 61 per cent are concerned about the state of the world and feel personally responsible to improve it.

We know also that millennials want to take ownership of their philanthropy. There are now many giving circles in the City, such as BeyondMe.org and The City Funding Network, which engages more than a thousand young people in giving their time, money and skills to niche projects they have carefully selected around their own causes.

City professionals also have a wealth of assets for philanthropy – aside from money they are rich in skills, which they want to use to change the world.

What we are calling ‘skillanthropy’, the donation of core professional skills such as management, marketing, accounting or data analysis that can help build the capacity of charitable organizations as well as help projects develop is another growing trend.

We know also that philanthropy always gives back. For City professionals involving oneself with a charitable project can be a career boon. It can open doors to powerful networks, build leadership skills and allow young people to shine and get noticed by management. So much so that corporate philanthropy programmes are increasingly the preserve of CSR and HR ‘development and learning’ departments.

One in five of the 300 companies that have taken Business in the Community’s Employee Volunteering Check Up since July 2010 have fully integrated employee volunteering as a tool for delivering learning and development objectives as well as motivating employees.

DonorWISE aims to give young people the skills that will turn them into power philanthropists and more useful citizens. That has to be worthwhile.

Cheryl Chapman is director of City Philanthropy.

Find out more about the next ‘DonorWISE event here>

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