Take advice from community funds

Rob Williamson

Eric Berseth’s June 2015 article on philanthropy advice offered by banks provides a useful profile of this expanding marketplace. There is evidence of high demand for philanthropy advice among the wealthiest people, although 73 per cent of the 1,000 UK donors surveyed by the Charities Aid Foundation in May thought such advice should be a free or low-cost service. Part of the appeal of philanthropy advice by private firms for the donor is, of course, that their giving can be understood and managed seamlessly, and without apparent extra cost, alongside their family or business affairs. It is perhaps, then, understandable how the ‘private’ donor-advised fund model has taken off in the US, and how wealth managers and lawyers are looking to provide similar vehicles in the UK.

But the article misses the key role of community foundations as philanthropy advisers. Donor-focused in our outlook, and providing a range of giving vehicles to suit their wishes and means, we can provide an important alternative to those looking for advice closer to home. Initiatives such as Toronto’s Vital Signs, which also features in the June 2015 issue, provide local intelligence on effective giving and, in the UK, a group of community foundations, including mine, is driving ground-breaking work on establishing competencies in philanthropy advice for our staff with the support of Cass Business School.

While our focus in community foundations will always be those who want to give back to their communities, we know that definitions of community are morphing. Silicon Valley Community Foundation in particular has led the way in providing advice to and vehicles for the philanthropy of its area, not just for it. And of course, other charitable donor-advised funds are emerging alongside CAF’s own well established services.

I’m sure Alliance will wish to continue following this rapidly evolving field with great interest.

Rob Williamson
Chief executive, Community Foundation for Tyne & Wear and Northumberland

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