What does effective philanthropy look like?

Chris Toy, Director, High Net Worth and Family Offices, The Power of Nutrition

Yesterday evening The Power of Nutrition and Prism the Gift Fund brought together a range of professionals from finance and philanthropy at The Clubhouse St James to answer key questions: what’s the key to effective giving, and how can high net worth individuals get started?

An experienced panel consisting of investor and philanthropist Luke Ding, Prism the Gift Fund Co-Founder Gideon Lyons,  and CEO of The Power of Nutrition Martin Short led the discussions and took questions from the floor. Prism‘s Trustee and Head of the UK & Ireland Office at Julius Baer, Tracey Reddings, directed the conversation as Chair.

If you didn’t get the chance to join us at the event, here are some key lessons from the discussion.

Giving to effective interventions

Luke Ding, philanthropist and investor, kicked off the event by sharing his giving experiences with effective altruism after discovering Giving What We Can, a structure that helps him ensure his money his having the greatest impact.

I always try to stick to the principles of effective altruism, which is to use evidence – I guess that appealed to my more analytical instinct. I use three criteria in terms of what to look for when giving. One is scope – does it affect a lot of people? Second, is it neglected? Are there a lot of people putting money there anyway? For example, cancer – there’s a lot of money going towards cancer research. And thirdly, is it tractable? Do we have solutions? Can we prove them? And I think, for example, deworming and nutrition interventions fit all those criteria.”

My colleague Martin Short, CEO of The Power of Nutrition, explained how through our large scale, evidence-based nutrition programmes, we can translate this approach to identifying impact into the language of business:

“We talk about nutrition as an investment because, while we are a grant making body, we do look at things through the lens of return on investment. Whilst the dividend is a social dividend, and we’re saving lives, I think it is important not to think of philanthropy as some sort of moral imperative in and of itself, I don’t think you should discard the principles of business or the laws of economics simply because you’re doing philanthropy.”

Giving for simplicity, sustainability and scale

Giving well isn’t just about picking the right interventions, it is also able giving in a way that best helps the cause you’re supporting have the greatest reach, and that also aligns with your personal values.

When it comes to programmes, Martin was clear that philanthropists can find strength in numbers and scale (magnified by our model that multiplies funds we receive by at least four times).

“Of the money we’ve raised in the last two years, which is just over $50 million, over half of that has been from High Net Worth Individuals. Philanthropists come to us on the basis that they want to do a particular intervention. We bring those people together because there’s far greater power in the scale of that group, and the opportunity for sustainable programmes, which we can do at scale.”

From a personal perspective, Prism’s Gideon Lyons highlighted the simplicity and flexibility of setting up a Donor Advised Fund (‘DAF’), compared to a grant making foundation, as well as the tax advantages it offers philanthropists of their generosity. He explained how it could work in practice:

“If you’re gifting £800,000, the government is going to give you £200,000 in gift aid, so there’s going to be a million in a Prism DAF, and as a 45% taxpayer you’re going to be able to claim another £250,000 in tax relief. So it’s actually only net cost you £550,000 to give a million pounds through Prism.”

Gideon went on to share how this model could also apply to a variety of other assets (including shares and property), even allowing philanthropists to give money over time. Luke, who has made multiyear pledges as part of his own giving, affirmed that sustainability was important for effective philanthropy.

Giving when you’re getting started

But perhaps the most important step in all this is the first – getting started. For Martin, it was essential that philanthropists can have their questions answered, especially when they’re setting out.

“The journey of a philanthropist is an extremely personal and emotional one, and people want to be philanthropists but aren’t quite sure how to start. The questions we hear constantly is ‘is my money being well spent? How do you know where it’s going? What are the waste and costs associated?’ We try to demystify that at The Power of Nutrition, offering a very focused due diligence service, to ensure you get traceability, accountability and transparency for where your money is going, with whom, to what beneficiaries, and the impact that it’ll have.”

A huge thank you must go to the guests, panelists, and our partners Prism The Gift Fund, who made this discussion so engaging.

We believe that our work at The Power of Nutrition measures up to these criteria for effective giving, which is why we’re so passionate to keep engaging new investors to fund our programmes around the world. If you’d like to explore how you or your clients can get involved, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or at ctoy@powerofnutrition.org.

If you’re looking for advice on how Donor Advised Funds can benefit you and your clients in maximising the impact of their philanthropy, our friends at Prism the Gift Fund would also be happy to hear from you.