The goals of giving are changing
As traditional charitable donations decline, a new breed of philanthropist is emerging, writes Colin Cardwell
BECKS scored again at the beginning of this month. The headlines and hoopla were not about his sporting career at new club Paris SaintGermain but more predictably about the money – and the fact t ha t David Beckham had announced, in his engagingly diffident way, that he intended to donate his entire salary for the duration of the contract, £150,000 a week, to a local children’s charity.
Inevitably, the cynics immediately waded in to claim that the exercise was nothing more than a publicity stunt and a clever tax move by someone who is, in any case, worth an estimated £200 million.
Whatever the arguments, the money will go to a worthwhile cause and the gesture threw a spotlight on charity donations in general at a time when there is major concern in the sector that people living in a regime of austerity will be less inclined to part with what little money they have.
Their worry is justified: Simon Bain reported in The Herald in December that the amount given to charities by people across the UK fell from £11 billion to £9.3bn last year, the biggest drop in the UK Giving survey’s eight-year history.
Encouragingly, mutual society Foresters said that Scots are bucking that trend, with average donations higher than the national average and set to rise, with an estimated £95 each to be given in 2013 – £17 more than in the UK as a whole.
A large proportion of giving comes from a relatively small section of society. In Scotland, an increasing number of high net worth individuals and successful business people, most of them not courting the headlines, are creating an entrepreneurial model of philanthropy that many believe has truly exciting possibilities.
One is Angus Macdonald, who f ounded s ustainable waste management company SWR in 2007 and is perhaps better known in Scotland as co-founder, with his wife Michie, of the Moidart Trust, which aims t oo support community devel-opment and social enter-prise in the north-westt under the umbrella of thee West Coast Communitiess Growth Trust Fund. It has helped small companies such as the Isle of Skye Baking Company and Wild West Foods, whose intriguing business plan was to bring beef jerky from Uruguay to the outer Hebrides – and which now stocks shops across the UK and Europe.
Macdonald has been a longstanding member of the Scottish Community Foundation, recently rebranded as Foundation Scotland, an organisation that provides administration and managementnt support services for indi-ividuals and organisa-ations who want to givee some of their wealth too promising businesses that might struggle to find conventional funding and distributes £3.5m a year on behalf of its donors.
Chief executive Giles Ruck is enthusiastic about the role of Macdonald and other entrepreneurs in kick-starting businesses that bring real economic and social benefits. The mantra, he says, is that giving means not just money but time. “Ten years ago the Times Rich List was three quarters inherited wealth and one quarter entrepreneurial and self-made money. Since 2007 the proportions have reversed and that is now coming through in the increasing proportion of high net worth philanthropy that we are seeing.”
Another development is the networking that now brings these people together. “Increasingly we have recognised that donors want to meet one another: they are very good at networking as business leaders but not from the perspective of engaging in philanthropy, which is a new journey for them.”
And there may even be some redemption for the much pilloried banking sector: “We are seeing an interest from highly remunerated employees of firms, mainly in finance and in the younger age bracket, who are paid well and want to do something positive with this.
“We set up the Foundation Scotland Trust which lets people do something enterprising and interesting without being concerned with all the regulatory issues and paying huge fees to professional advisers. We’ve seen nearly 20 funds being set up, even in this economic climate, and we haven’t particularly pushed it.”
Most people, he believes have a philanthropic trait or gene. “If people are making large amounts of money, they have probably bought the car and the house –but that isn’t totally rewarding and they want to give something back.”
His optimism is shared by Mick Jackson, the exuberantly positive founder of Wildhearts in Action, a multi-million pound office supply company that donates all its profits to charity. Jackson’s ethos is simple: rather than give donations to the needy the company arranges micro loans, on average £150, to help people set up their own business. And it is an enterprise firmly underpinned by entrepreneurial principles.
“The latest research in positive psychology shows that the people who perform best in companies tend to be the most magnanimous in nature,” says Jackson. “Capitalism has been so effective for so long because of the creativity and individuality that it releases – but it only addresses the selfish aspect of building a career. The selfless side of the person is equally important and if you neglect that it leads to all sort of emotional and societal problems – a lot of people experience a sense of malaise, a feeling that things aren’t right.”
Jackson believes that the traditional concept of philanthropy as donating money is becoming rapidly outmoded.
Mick Jackson of WildHearts believes imbuing his Micro Tycos with entrepreneurial skills is crucial in helping those in poverty build their own businesses
David Beckham’s recent decision to donate his Paris Saint-Germain salary to charity predictably made news - but there are a raft of innovative new means of philanthropy