Peter Slater founded the Indo-China Starfish Foundation (ISF) in Cambodia with some friends in 2006. Despite having a demanding job as Deputy CEO of a specialized financial institution, he made time to set up and then significantly expand ISF in a relatively short period of time. To do this he relied on support, advice and guidance from family and friends rather than any formal philanthropy advice, he told Caroline Hartnell. In addition, he uses CAF to structure his more regular giving.
Do you have any sort of philanthropy adviser?
I don’t tend to use formal philanthropy advice services but I do obtain a significant amount of advice and guidance from family and friends. I have many friends who have each been very successful in their chosen field who give me robust and balanced advice.
With respect to regular personal giving, I manage my donations through CAF. Once a year, my wife Sue and I review our charitable donations, reassess the themes we want to focus on, and notify CAF if we wish to reallocate funds. I keep an investment account and a current account with CAF and I use them to donate funds in a tax-efficient way. If anyone asks me, I’d always recommend CAF as a structured way of managing giving.
When it comes to giving personal time and energy, my focus is on two charities that I chair, Springboard for Children in the UK and the Indo-China Starfish Foundation, which is registered in the UK but works in Cambodia.
How did you come to set up the Indo-China Starfish Foundation?
I was on holiday in Cambodia five years ago and fell in love with the country and the people. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and went through unspeakable atrocities in the 1970s, but the people remain warm-hearted, genuine, kind and charming. I instantly felt this was a country where some focused attention and money could make a massive difference.
I started by supporting a small orphanage, and later I decided to set up a small school. Initially we had about 15 children, then, as we raised more funds and more friends became involved, we expanded. Now we have a large school where we provide a full education, free breakfast and lunch, and full medical, dental and vaccination treatment to 160 children from the slums of Phnom Penh.
As a number of my fellow trustees are keen sportsmen, we saw an opportunity to help a much larger group of children by providing regular football coaching. We now provide coaching, in partnership with the Cambodian Football Federation and a second NGO, SALT, for over 2,500 children across Cambodia every week.
Initially some of the funds came from the CAF account but we now do a lot of fundraising externally, and the trustees and their friends raise around $350,000 a year.
And you never felt any inclination to go to an adviser to talk through, say, the direction you wanted to go in or the sort of vehicle you wanted to use?
As I mentioned earlier, I have many friends with very varied experiences who bring a wealth of ideas, skills and talents to the two charities that I’m most involved with. I have therefore not tended to seek more formal structured philanthropy advice.
The trustee board of the ISF is basically myself and seven friends. In the last five to six years, they have been my main source of inspiration and advice. In addition to regular board meetings, there’s constant dialogue between us, and because we’re all friends that makes it very easy. Our cumulative knowledge and experience is extensive, and we are all connected to another 10 or 20 other relevant people. This connects us both to additional expertise and to people who raise funds for us. For instance, when we upgraded our website, a friend of one of the trustees, a PR consultant, did the work pro bono.
I also find there’s a high level of informal exchange of information among people doing similar things. Recently, someone contacted me and I talked them through how I set up Indo-China Starfish Foundation. This has worked both ways, with others calling me and saying ‘we’re doing this – can we give you advice?’ I’ve found it’s a great community.
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