THE FUTURE OF PHILANTHROPY IN THE UK: REVOLUTION, INNOVATION AND THE RISE OF LONDON

As we march towards an EU referendum and the end of yet another UK tax year, there are many things to occupy our minds, none least, if an EU exit is likely, what will Europe look like and what will the actual impact on the UK will be. Times change and we must learn to adapt and survive, the way generations have done before us. But as times change there are opportunities for innovation and exploration. This made me start to think about what likely innovations and new norms are we likely to see in philanthropy and social investment.

Many of you will have seen the press coverage around the Zuckerberg-Chan decision to use an LLC structure to power their commitment to re-investing 99% of their shares (currently worth $45bn) into society. Given this is not a foundation or trust structure, and was a commitment of share options, not wealth, many were sceptical and questioned the use of the LLC vehicle. What was interesting was the absence of any commentary regarding the use of these structures previously for large, philanthropic endeavours. Pierre and Pam Omidyar set up the Omidyar Network many years ago in precisely the same way and are well respected for the work they have done. They have a Foundation that operates alongside the LLC also.

THE RISE OF THE DONOR-ADVISED FUND

Given the reaction to Mark Zuckerberg and his wife’s plans to use a non traditional structure, have we been conditioned to think that philanthropy at scale must only ever be achieved through foundations and trusts? We see year on year more and more people choosing to use our infrastructure for their giving, and the rise of the ‘donor advised fund’ industry in the US and also more recently in the UK, is testimony to the desire by many to investigate alternative models for supporting their philanthropic aspirations. It is a trend that will continue (boosted unfortunately in some cases by the fear of engaging directly with charities and subsequently finding oneself inundated with requests). Alongside this, the rise of the millennials will also alter considerably how we think about philanthropy, and what role we assign it in society.

HOW TECHNOLOGY IS TRANSFORMING GIVING

Technology and tech entrepreneurs will continue to rise as a force for good – whether it be through the ability to convene many onto platforms for action, or through democratising impact. New players into the marketplace, like the Epic Foundation, will continue to convene many for collaborative investment and action. By de-risking and theming what could be described as very large giving circles, and providing monitoring and evaluation on the beneficiaries (largely smaller, grass roots education organisations) Epic will increase the ease with which people can take action. All running costs for Epic are met by its founder Alexandre Mars.

The same model of no fee – direct impact is also the founding basis for the Founders Pledge, another action oriented platform for tech entrepreneurs who commit to donate 2% of their personal proceeds to a social cause of their choice, following an exit. How many more of these types of platforms we can expect to see will remain to be seen, but it is clear that technology, tech entrepreneurs and the millennials are very much here and doing things their way. Expect to see a lot more ‘noise’ and action from this community, as they intend to disrupt and will deploy at pace and with agility.

BANKING AND SUSTAINABLE PHILANTHROPY

Alongside technology, we will see the rise of the banking philanthropist as more wealth is made in global capital markets by those who steward these markets. We will also see more millennials coming through at an early age with created wealth.  This will influence the banking community in how it thinks of and adopts philanthropy and social investment in a more wholesale manner. Social investment, sustainable finance and impact investing’s stars are all in the ascendancy. I doubt this will change any time soon if at all.

As tech entrepreneurs and millennials look to technology to convene and impact, financiers will look to increase the level of and type of capital available for impact driven ventures. Values based investing is here and I expect to see more conversations happening about what philanthropic endowment and investment capital is exposed to in the market place, alongside how wealth in totality is stewarded for sustainable growth and social impact. The Sainsbury’s Family of Charitable Trusts has been very vocal about the Divest: Invest & Engage movement, and has started a groundswell in action across a number of high profile institutions.

There have been some interesting ‘casualties’ none least Oxford University who suffered the media humiliation of students handing back degrees because of the University’s exposure to fossil fuels. This is one demonstration of the importance of watching what your capital is exposed to. Millennials as a general rule favour clean portfolios. With the rise of the next generation banker, what global capital markets will look like in 20-30 years’ time will be interesting to see. In the next two years at least, expect to witness increasing growth across the impact finance space, especially the rise of social investment as a means through which charities and social enterprises can help diversify income streams and move towards positions of sustainability.

WILL LONDON REMAIN A GLOBAL POWERHOUSE OF GLOBAL GIVING?

Finally, there is the issue of London. What with a possible BREXIT looming over the City, and with high levels of investment made over the last two years especially to promote London as a global hub for impact investing, social investment and more latterly philanthropy, it remains to be seen whether London can and will position itself as a global powerhouse in the philanthropy space. Given access to the City, a favourable tax environment (for those with UK tax liabilities), stable governance and government, leading charities and social enterprises (domestic and international), a regulator, the ability to donate overseas, and (although less so at the moment) a robust economy, there are many reasons for non resident philanthropists to use London as a base. With the rise of wealth in some Commonwealth countries (especially India), and with large and diverse groups of diaspora in the UK, I think we can expect to see more international philanthropic wealth coming into the UK for advice and management. Will BREXIT impact this? If the City remains as influential as it currently is, regardless of whether we are in or out of Europe, London’s star will continue to rise as a place to do good .