New York, March 4, 2021: A virtual fireside chat on ‘Collaborative Giving and Social Impact’ was hosted on 4 March, by Respada, an invitation-only niche platform providing private market opportunities to the ultra-affluent. Moderated by Daryl Heald, Philanthropist and Global Impact Investor, the event explored how family offices can maximise the social impact of philanthropy. Panelists included Vivian Gee, Impact Strategist, Patrick Briaud, Head of Impact Investing at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and Rand Newcomb, Senior Advisor of The Omidyar Group and Founding President & CEO of Humanity United.
Setting the context for the discussion, Heald elucidated how intractable problems like lack of education, healthcare and clean water have been affecting many parts of the society over several decades. He opined, “The solution forward is not through charitable dollars. Rather, it is through people with great ideas that can access capital markets and scale beyond what is possible on the charitable side”. A seasoned advisor for social purpose businesses, Gee observed an important mindset shift among UHNW individuals and families, towards increased involvement in impact investing and philanthropy. “We see a melding of philanthropic giving with business pursuits which blurs the artificial lines that once existed. For instance, among many Asian conglomerates, a lot of CSR goes hand in hand with family giving,” Gee said. Placing Millenials and Generation Z at the heart of directing philanthropic dollars over the next decade, she also perceived a shift in focal areas. “Generally speaking, a lot of first-generation wealth creators have focused on traditional areas such as healthcare and education. In the next generation, we see a shift towards existential questions such as climate change. Here in the US, we also see a huge appetite towards applying a racial lens in terms of impact investing and grant-making.” Gee noted.
While Gee discussed a change in focus, Briaud recommended a change in attitude by “looking at all your current investments as having an impact on the world”. “The big shift is not whether you should do impact investing, but that you are already doing it. Also, how can you steer your portfolio towards a net positive impact that is aligned with what you care about in the world,” he explained. Eliciting numbers, Briaud observed that out of an approximate 300 trillion in global capital markets, even a one percent shift can help us achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs). “Despite the lack of investment opportunities in all of the goals, these numbers give us an idea of why impact investing is here and it is here to stay,” he said.
Newcomb took a step back to look at the larger picture in light of Covid-19. “While the pandemic was despairing in many respects, it also provided evidence of how we can innovate in impact investing, in collaborative and creative ways,” he said. Citing a lack of flexibility while working within traditional structures of philanthropy, Newcomb elucidated a new approach where you “bring the full spectrum of financial capital to drive impact, instead of just a small segment that is allowed for charitability”. “We moved into an LLC structure and began to create different foundations and companies that were in service to the broader vision and mission of the company,” he explained. Further, Newcomb asserted, “More than the idea of collaboration, people are inspired by how they can make the biggest impact in the world and how they can drive change for societies to flourish globally. This is the common trait among successful partnerships”.
More than the idea of collaboration, people are inspired by how they can make the biggest impact in the world and how they can drive change for societies to flourish globally.
Johanna Sheridan, Founder of the Philanthropic Startup SaltExchange and a Respada expert member, joined the conversation by asking the panelists, “What do you think are the biggest challenges to people collaborating?” Gee pointed out that the possible absence of humility is the primary challenge. “To collaborate more effectively, we need to listen and learn from the social enterprises that we are funding. Collaboration is not just among funders. Rather, what is needed is a true partnership of humility and acknowledgment of the expertise of those who are closest to the issue,” she reminded.
In closing, Peter Guy, Partner Member at Respada and a former manager at the World Bank, reflected on the difference between gift-giving and philanthropy. “Philanthropy is more focused on directing big capital to solve big problems, in contrast to arbitrary gift-giving,” he said. Drawing from his personal experience of working on the ground, he realised, “The world needs true philanthropists who will take up causes that a typical corporation will not and that is the only way one can make an impact. It is a passion and a crusade, unlike giving money to a few hundred causes at once which will make us feel good but has a very little impact”. On this note, Briaud encouraged UHNW families and individuals to “go ahead and try impact investing, whether it is through collaboration or trying to understand systems change. Just give it a shot and see what you learn in the process,” he concluded.