Dame Stephanie Shirley CH and The Honourable Ronnie Chan are both relentless in their giving, together accounting for hundreds of millions in charitable donations. At the same time, they offer a nuanced approach to what is philanthropy on an industrial scale. Their macro generosity is based on micro thinking.
The pair took centre stage at this year’s Global Philanthropic “Talking Philanthropy” symposium, co-hosted by Global Philanthropic and Kleinwort Hambros, this time at London’s Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall. Delegates were first welcomed by GP’s chairman, Seymour Banks, and Rebecca Constable, Director of Private Banking and Head of Philanthropy at the day’s joint hosts, Kleinwort Hambros, ahead of a day focusing on two of the most significant current themes in fundraising: intergenerational Wealth Transition and Women in Philanthropy.
Proceedings of the highest standard throughout reached a peak with Dame Stephanie and Chan, both uniquely captivating in explaining their respective approaches to charity. This included a few surprises for the audience of almost 150 attendees, including philanthropists, non-government organisations and interested individuals coming from all corners of the globe.
GP’s Chairman Seymour Banks opening the day
Dame Stephanie, well known for her support of causes related to autism, confided that her most recent donation – £100,000 – had been an unconditional gift. Her approach to philanthropy is, she admitted, usually to seek causes where her involvement can be more than “just writing a cheque” – “just writing a cheque demeans both me and the recipient”.
“I give carefully and in a very focused way to causes that I care about.”
Yet with her most recent gift, she uncharacteristically opted to remain hands off and now reflects that the money has been subsequently used to support aspects of the cause she might not have thought of as a priority. Moreover, long reticent about having a building named in her honour, Dame Stephanie has recently acceded to a lecture theatre, persuaded by her family that the gesture will shine further light on the cause of autism.
Ronnie Chan, rightly revered for his family’s US$350 million donation in 2014 to the University of Harvard, sought to address one of the symposium’s main themes, namely the transition of wealth within families. In sharing his family’s experience, he provided a deeply personal insight into the humbleness of the approach he, his brothers and their father adopted towards philanthropy. In particular, he stressed the importance of appreciating fully the value of money.
“If money is just about the zeros then your children will not become good philanthropists.” – Chan suggested.
The Chan family’s own extraordinary donation to Harvard University – a showstopper in exactly the same way that Chan’s insightful address was at the symposium – was a reflection of the Chinese preference for supporting causes that work towards the health and well-being of others. The gift to the Harvard School for Public Health was ultimately, Chan argued, a gift to mankind, to help couch against the growing threats to the world as a whole of dangers such as global pandemics.
The Honourable Ronnie Chan GBM
Earlier in the day, Jon Needham, deputy head of Wealth Planning Solutions and head of Trust and Fiduciary Services for Société Générale Private Banking, shared insights on the philanthropic leanings of the Millennial generation.
The key distinctions of Millennials for fundraisers, by comparison with their predecessors, are: the extraordinary degree of entrepreneurship amongst this generation—54% of Millennials have started or plan to start their own businesses, while 27% have already; their increasing concentration on causes of child welfare, animal welfare, education and climate change; and their strong emotional connection to creating legacies of social impact.
“Millennials want a cause very close to their heart—and if they can’t find it, they create it themselves.”
A four-woman panel convened to address the symposium’s other principal theme, women in philanthropy.
The discussion, moderated by MC for the day, Kirsty Lang of BBC’s Radio 4, featured Diana Fox Carney, executive director at Pi Capital and a trustee of both the Shell Foundation and Save the Children, Rafia Qureshi, executive director of the Womanity Foundation, and Dr Helen Pankhurst, a trustee of ActionAid UK, and senior advisor to CARE International, and Patricia Zurita, chief executive of BirdLife International.
‘Women in Philanthropy’ panel discussion
There was agreement across the panel that women bring something distinct to philanthropy. Carney suggested the approach of women is more collaborative and strategic, as well as perhaps featuring greater aversion to risk, while Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter and granddaughter, respectively, of Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst, and today a central figure in women’s rights and the 2018 centenary of the suffragette movement, stressed that women donors are more likely than men to start small and increase their giving.
She added that women might also be more open to causes other than simply infrastructure.
At the same time, Carney emphasised that the greater empathy and long-term thinking behind women’s philanthropy was the reason to advocate their even greater involvement.
In considering how best to promote a greater involvement of women in philanthropy, the panel urged those already prominent to advance the cause of others, not least at boardroom level, where women can use such positions to great effect, thanks to a firmer belief in collaboration, including with men. Qureshi stressed the importance of joint collaborations. Women want to see for themselves the end result of their gifts and apply greater rigour to ensure a positive outcome, added Zurita.
Qureshi’s faith in collaboration between men and women—the whole exceeding the sum of parts—is reflected in the outlook of Womanity.
The theme of the importance of women in philanthropy was continued in the final address by Jan McLoughlin, director general of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), who shared the remarkable story and legacy of Maria Dickin CBE, the animal welfare pioneer who founded the leading vet service more than 100 years ago.
During the day, participants also had the opportunity to actively engage in case study breakout sessions, in which ActionAid UK, UN Women UK, and the Wimbledon Concert Hall Trust invited practical solutions for current challenges.
A much-anticipated highlight was the awarding of Global Philanthropic’s second annual Philanthropy Award, recognising leadership, creativity, courage and innovation through acts of philanthropy. The joint recipients for 2018 were the founder of Womanity, Yann Borgstedt, and Dame Stephanie Shirley. Inaugural Award recipient Geoff Holt MBE DL presented the two awards.
Geoff Holt and Rafia Qureshi receiving the Philanthropy Award on behalf of Yann Borgstedt
The day concluded with thanks from both GP’s founder, Ben Morton-Wright, and Max Thillaye de Boullay, Société Général’s head of philanthropy. This was followed by a reception at Canada House hosted by Canadian deputy high commissioner to the UK and Northern Ireland, Sarah Fountain-Smith, and final remarks by GP Asia Pacific President & CEO Nick Jaffer.
2019 promises another occasion that sets both the tone and wider agenda for major themes in philanthropy, with GP likely to accept an invitation to host a symposium in Hong Kong.