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Extraordinary change by mankind is possible

28/05/2020

Faced with answering the question, ‘How is Covid-19 changing the face of philanthropy?’, a panel that included Rebecca Constable of Kleinwort Hambros revealed their impressions of how the world has changed and offered their impressions of where and how we go now.

“If we have lost a third of our economy, let’s make sure it’s the dirty part,” said Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet and a panelist in ‘How Covid-19 is changing the face of philanthropy’, hosted by Home Grown Club, the entrepreneurs’ arm of Home House, facilitated by the Wealthiher Network and held on Zoom on Tuesday 19 May.

The panel, led by Sarah Matthew from The Vibrant Company, an entrepreneur and investor who works closely with Home Grown Club, investigated philanthropy as a catalyst for the change that will follow in the wake of Covid-19. “Unlike charity, which offers an emotional outburst and resources to ease a problem, philanthropy is more strategic and aimed at solving the root cause,” said panelist Rebecca Constable of Kleinwort Hambros.

“It’s not just about giving money, it is also time and expertise; it’s a mindset,” said Ms Constable, whose giving portfolio includes education and sport for girls and homelessness in the UK.

There is no minimum amount to qualify, but seeking matched funding is a powerful additional source of funds. “You don’t need to set up a charity or foundation,” said Ms Constable. “Take a look at donor advice funds, an easy to set-up bank account whereby you decide the destination of your donations.”

More conversations and financial commitment during the crisis have emerged as more people are charged to stay home, finding more time to talk to their family and less time travelling, according to Sheryl Fofaria of JP Morgan Private Bank. “At the first few signs of crisis, private donors went into emergency mode, got money out the door more quickly and found ways to be more nimble, flexible and supportive of their charity partners,” said Ms Fofaria.

The shock of how easy and quickly half the world’s population acquiesced to lockdown showed that extraordinary change by mankind is possible. “We quickly realised it is not a time to stay quiet,” said Ms Sutherland.

What comes next will include CSR (corporate and social responsibility) at its core, a thought echoed by all panelists. “CSR should be banned if it not at the centre, in which case it is just marketing,” said Ms Sutherland, who extolled the virtues of B corporations, companies that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance.

“[Attention to] mental health, for example, just becomes part of what we do,” said Ms Constable. “Everyone is now asking ‘how are you?’ and it sits absolutely in the core of the conversation.”

Never less than 80% of respondents in surveys do not want us going back to what was before, which was not normal, indicating a desire to effect change so that sustainability, more equal distribution of the world's resources and a renewed sense of solidarity become key pillars of the ‘new normal’, according to Ms Sutherland. “I used to sell stuff; now I sell change,” said Ms Sutherland.