Now that’s what I call Philanthropy and Social Investment 9: Best of the web 10/5/13

OK- so this “weekly” round up is in serious danger of being accused of flagrant false advertising at this point… Perhaps it would be less of a hostage to fortune if I re-labelled it a “regular” (or even “occasional”) round up instead? In any case, I have managed to find time to do sufficient web scouring to bring you my five best stories of the week (with a reasonably heavy social investment flavour this week).

1) First up is an interesting snippet from New Scientist asking “does online slacktivism reduce charitable giving?” (Slacktivism, for those of you who don’t spend all your time reading articles about trends in social action, is the fairly loathsome neologism describing the sort of social activism that consists mainly of signing online petitions, liking Facebook pages and retweeting things). This is a question I have considered a bit in the past, when wondering whether new forms of “low-friction” giving will have a negative impact on traditional donations (see this blog post for more info).

 2) This week saw the first anniversary of Big Society Capital, which it marked by producing its first annual report. An interesting article on Pioneers Post by social investor James Perry took an objective look at the progress BSC has made so far and the challenges it faces.

 3) Further afield, there was some intriguing impact investing news from India, where a group of nine of the country’s leading impact investors have come together in an attempt to self-regulate their nascent industry. There are particular cultural concerns in India, where the recent experiences of failures in the microfinance industry have left many scarred and cynical about attempts to add a commercial edge to traditionally charitable endeavours. These impact investors have drawn up a charter in an attempt to nip such concerns in the bud. It will be fascinating to see how this develops.

 4) Another interesting story highlighted the intersection between cutting edge CSR and social investment, with the news that outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia is launching an in-house $20m impact investing fund. This will invest solely in companies that share Patagonia’s social and environmental values, and looks like a fascinating model of the way that CSR could be done in the future.

5) And finally… bringing together the clothing company and philanthropy theme is the news that the founder of underwear maker Spanx has become the first female billionaire to sign the Giving Pledge. Apparently not content with helping millions of women through the medium of body-sculpting pants, Sara Blakely now wants to commit over half of her $1 billion fortune to women’s causes around the world.

 Rhodri Davies

Now That’s What I Call Philanthropy & Social Investment 8: Best of the web 05.04.13

I realise that once again this “weekly” update has slipped to being fortnightly, so apologies for that. In my defence though, this time it was Easter weekend that got in the way, rather than my own shoddy timekeeping. In any case, I’m back in the game now, so here are this week’s picks:

 

1)      Up first is an update from the Wall St Journal on the proposals to cap tax deductions on charitable giving in the US. This is something we should keep a close eye on in the UK, as if such a change is introduced in the US it makes it far more likely that there will be some sort of new attempt to introduce a cap on charitable tax relief over here in the future.

 

2)      A blog on the Huffington Post posed the intriguing question “Is there a role for philanthropy in a Socialist State?” The author bases most of her analysis on a recent visit to Cuba and doesn’t draw any firm conclusions, but there is some decent food for thought on what I think is a fascinating topic.

 

3)      More evidence of the growth of social investment in Australia with the publication of a government-commissioned report on “Impact investing in an Australian context”. (You can download the whole report here). It certainly seems as though there is a lot of enthusiasm for social finance down under at the moment.

 

4)      ESPN carried an investigation into sport stars’ charities in the US, which found that many of them do not meet basic standards of governance or efficiency. I was particularly interested because we spent a bit of time looking at the philanthropy of Premiership football stars in the wake of the ‘David Beckham giving his PSG wages to charity’ story (hence this blog), and that made me wonder what a similar investigation in the UK would find…

 

5)      And finally… I loved this article from Wired detailing the ways in which sci fi and fantasy geeks are using their love of fictional worlds as the basis for charitable acts in this one. (I feel fine using the word “geek” as I would class myself as one- as demonstrated by my excitement at the fact that Patrick Rothfuss was quoted in this article…)

Rhodri Davies

Budget 2013: definitely better than last year…

The annual ritual of crowding around the office TV, listening to the Chancellor’s Budget announcement to see if there are any mentions of charities is now over for another year. And the snap judgement on this year’s Budget is… pretty good, to be honest.

imageCharities weren’t front and centre like they were in 2011, but then neither were they presented with a nasty surprise as they were with 2012’s charity tax debacle. This year, there were a few announcements on charities and social investment and they all seemed pretty positive.

I want to focus on two announcements: on digital Gift Aid and on a new tax incentive for social investment (not because the fact that charities will be eligible for a new £2,000 employer allowance against National Insurance Contributions is not important, but merely because I don’t have anything much to say except “er, that sounds good?”).


Digital Gift Aid

At CAF, we have been banging on for years about the need to reform the Gift Aid system to make it fit for the 21st century and ensure that it works with new forms of technology-enabled donations. imageSo it was great to see that not only have the Government committed to a full consultation on changes to Gift Aid by Summer 2013, but that they specifically mentioned the idea of “enabling donors to complete a single Gift Aid declaration to cover all their donations through a specific channel”. Further clarification from HMRC makes it clear that the prospect of a “universal Gift Aid declaration” linked to a donor database is also still on the table.

We have long argued that the ambition for Gift Aid should be to combine a one-off universal declaration with a simple form of unique identifier and a database of donors who had signed up for the system. This would enable charities to cross-reference donations against the central database to see who was signed up for Gift Aid. If the identifier was something that could be linked automatically to donations made through certain channels (which would certainly be possible for mobile and online giving), the whole process could happen in way that meant the donor experience was almost frictionless.

Obviously this vision is still a long way off, and one swallow doth not a summer consultation make, but this is a promising first step on the road to getting Gift Aid fit for the 21st century.


Social Investment tax relief

The other big news that caught my eye was the announcement that “the Government will introduce a new tax relief to encourage private investment in social enterprise”. imageThis is another thing that CAF has been calling for for some time, and I have been involved in various working groups and reviews on the issue for a couple of years. I have to say that I was quite pessimistic about there being any positive news in this year’s Budget, so I am happy to be proved wrong!

There is no suggestion at this point of what form this relief might take- will it be a truly new tax incentive solely targeted at social investment, or an extension of an existing relief (such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme or Venture Capital Trust) to cover social as well as commercial investment? However, a commitment to introducing a new relief of this kind (whatever form it takes) is definitely positive news. CAF will be working with the Treasury and with others in the social investment sector to help shape the new incentive over the coming months.


Rhodri Davies

Now That’s What I Call Philanthropy & Social Investment 7: Best of the web 15.03.13

Some great bits of philanthropy and social investment news this week, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from looking at my Twitter feed as i’ve been a bit busy with real world work to do much tweeting. Not to worry though- I have saved the best bits up for this weekly blog post:


1) Unashamedly up first is the launch of CAF’s own “Growing Giving” campaign, which will investigate what can be done to encourage people to give throughout their lifetimes. We announced this week that we will be running a cross-party Parliamentary Inquiry, chaired by David Blunkett MP with help from Andrew Percy MP and Baroness Tyler (check out the campaign website for more info). We also released our “Growing Up Giving" report, which looks at the attitudes of primary and secondary school children to charitable giving. We even made it on to BBC Newsround as a result!


2) Also big news in the UK philanthropy world was the launch of NPC’s major new report into the motivations and attitudes of donors, “Money for Good”. This contains a wealth of fascinating findings, including that less than half of people think that there is a moral obligation to give if you have the money (which is both surprising and slightly depressing).


3) Some fairly technical but potentially very significant social investment news, with the announcement that the European Parliament has voted in favour of a new Bill that will make it easier for social investment fund managers to market funds across borders within the EU.


4) Fascinating article on the ongoing challenges facing civil society in China, where a new law has been proposed that would treat giving as a mandatory “tax” that would go to government controlled charities. More grist to the mill of our Future World Giving research project.


5) And finally, without making any judgments about the rights and wrongs of the situation,this story has a headline worth the price of entry by itself: “Holidaymaker who wrestled shark sacked by charity”.


Rhodri Davies

Now That’s What I Call Philanthropy & Social Investment 6: Best of the week 08.03.13

Hello again Friday philanthro-socinv fans! Apologies that there hasn’t been a web round up for while, but I have been off for a few weeks. Rest assured that I’m back now though, and have rolled up my sleeves and sifted through the Internet (yep, the whole thing) to find the best stories about philanthropy and social investment which I present here for your delectation:


1) At number one is a good article from Forbes India about growing philanthropy in Asia. I was particularly interested to see how closely this echoes the recently-released first report in CAF’s Future World Giving series, which assesses the potential rise in philanthropy that could  result from the boom in the the global middle class.


2) A great blog by the Institute for Government’s Adrian Brown suggested that the UK Government’s enthusiasm for Payment by Results might be waning in the wake of disappointing intital results form the flagship Work Programme. PbR is something I have been intersted in for a while (see CAF’s Funding good Outcomes report for more on this if you’re interested).


3) A major new report this week from Big Society Capital and the City of London attempted to make the case for the importance of tax incentives in encouraging social investment. It estimated that an additional £480m of social investment could be unlocked if the right incentives were put in place. I will be analysing these findings in more detail in a separate post.


4) And while we’re talking impressive-sounding estimates of the potential for social investment, the Rockefeller Foundation suggested this week that social investment (or “impact investing” to use their more American term) in India is likely to grow at 30% a year. If this proves true, India could become a massive global player in the social investment area.


5) In the “And Finally” slot this week is news that filmaker George Lucas has proposed making an extraordinary gift that could be worth more than $1bn in the long-term, to fund a museum devoted to the art of visual storytelling. If there is any truth in the idea that philanthropy can be used to absolve us of our earthly sins, then this just about starts to atone for The Phantom Menace…


Rhodri Davies

Now That’s What I Call Philanthropy & Social Investment 2: Best of the Web 25.01.13

Based on the response to last week’s inaugural weekly round-up of the top 5 philanthropy and social investment stories on the web, I am going to cautiously pronounce it a success. At least, enough of a success that I have decided to do a second edition this week.

So here, in no particular order, are this week’s 5 philanthro-socinvestment stories (no, that’s definitely not going to catch on, is it?).

Enjoy…

1) At number one is this article from Forbes magazine looking at some of the biggest philanthropists in Africa.


2) From the always-readable (if not always to-be-agreed-with!) Philanthrocapitalism website comes this blog analysing “The conservative criticism of philanthropy”. (That’s conservatism in the small-c, US sense, rather than Tory party).


3) Interesting and challenging take on the story that was out this week about Government stifling the independence of the voluntary sector, from the Guardian’s Zoe Williams. She argues that the unwillingness of charities that receive public funding to criticise government policy should not be taken as a reason to view them as victims, but rather that it should be seen as “tantamount to collusion.” Punchy stuff!


4) Thoughtful article on Pioneers Post about the difficulty of “following the money” in social investment at the moment, because of a lack of data on what social investments are being made.


5) And finally, a piece from the New York Times, about the “Rise of the Charity Pub”. This is one social innovation I really want to believe in. If anyone fancies setting a charity pub up near where I live, mine’s a pint of mild…


Rhodri Davies

Now That’s What I Call Philanthropy & Social Investment: best of the web this week

Having made a New Year’s resolution to pull my finger out and make more of this blog, here is the first of what I hope will be a weekly feature, highlighting the five best articles or blogs on philanthropy/social investment/charity issues that I have come across this week.

Hopefully this will be handy for those of you who don’t have much time to trawl cyberspace for interesting tidbits on these topics. I have to do it as part of my job, so I thought I could make myself even more useful by filtering out the best bits and presenting them to willing readers on a platter of a Friday afternoon.

I hope you enjoy.

1) First up is another entry in the growing genre of “impact investing is the next big thing” articles, but one that has a bit more about it than some I have come across. From Forbes magazine: "Forget the Big Bucks… Today’s Investor Also Wants a Different Kind of Return on His Money.

2) I did a slight double take when I saw this article entitledCharities fear new tax rules’ effect on giving”, as I thought I was suddenly back in April 2012 at the height of the Give it Back George:Drop the Charity Tax campaign. But no- I realised that it was actually from the Boston Globe and detailing the similar fight over charitable tax relief that is raging in the US at the moment.

3) For anyone interested in the current hullaballoo about Payment by Results, well- firstly read this blog post by me… but then it is well worth checking out this post from NCVO’s Fiona Sheil: "Can payment by results really trigger innovation?"

4) Over the pond again, a new book called “The Good Rich and What They Cost Us” is getting some people in the philanthropy world worked up with its highly critical take on the value of major donor philanthropy through the ages. The Wall Street Journal carried an interesting review of the book.

5) Finally: an interesting Harvard Business Review article arguing that there need not be any trade-off between financial and social return. Every Business is (Or Should Be) a Social Business”.


Rhodri Davies

Rehabilitation in the Aspiration Nation: good news for charities?

Another day, another payment by results (PbR) story in the media… At least, that’s how it feels at the moment. After doing a blog post only a week ago about CAF’s recently-published report on using social investment to support charities delivering PbR contracts, and the fact that this appeared to reflect an upsurge of interest in this topic,yesterday saw David Cameron giving a major speech on rehabilitation in the criminal justice system in which he placed PbR at the centre of government policy.

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The timeliness of our report was confirmed by the fact that quotes we put out in response to Cameron’s speech were picked up by the BBC (here) and the Guardian (here). We were reiterating the point that PbR has the potential to be a positive thing for charities, but the problems with the way that it is being implemented (as detailed in our report) mean that charities are in danger of being squeezed out by large private sector providers.

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Funding Good Outcomes: using social investment to support payment by results

This is exciting: rather than writing about interesting reports or research by other people (which is my usual MO on this blog) I find myself able to write a blog post about a report of my own! CAF has just launched a paper entitled “Funding Good Outcomes: Using social investment to support payment by results”, which I wrote (based very largely, I should point out, on conversations with our excellent social investment team, CAF Venturesome, about their experience in the social investment market).

The report argues that payment-by-results (PbR) is a good idea in theory but poor implementation looks likely to lead to it failing in practice, as charities and social enterprises will not be able to play the sort of role as service providers that the Government clearly wants them to play.

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NCVO released a survey yesterday showing that 7 out of 10 charities that are sub-contracting in the Work Programme thought their contracts were at risk of failure. This demonstrates the level of concern not-for-profits* have about the way PbR is being implemented. imageOf course, as well as the broader issues with PbR that are exemplified by the Work Programme, there are specific problems stemming from the prime contractor/subcontractor model which are not inherent to all PbR approaches. However, since it looks likely that the Work Programme will provide a template for many future PbR initiatives there is definitely cause for alarm.

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Moving things on: the Government’s social investment strategy update

The government recently kept us all on tenterhooks (or at least that very small number of us who get excited about voluntary sector policy), waiting for their “Giving White Paper: One Year On” update. As I outlined in my previous post, apart from the very welcome news of an additional £40m there was nothing particularly new or eye-catching in this document, so the build up was perhaps a bit unfortunate. It came as something of a surprise to find out only a week later that, with no fanfare at all, the Cabinet Office also released a progress report on their social investment strategy. Indeed, so low key was this launch that I only heard about it via Twitter (despite spending a reasonable amount of my time on social investment policy).

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This document is quite a lot more interesting than the giving paper progress report. Not only does it give a useful brief overview of what has happened over the last year in terms of social investment policy (which to be fair is quite a lot), it also gives a clear indication of where the government’s priorities lie in this area over the next few years. There is also a very useful round-up of all the investments made by Big Society Capital so far. I thought I would take a brief look at the key points in the document, and whether there are any outstanding questions or areas of concern. (And just to declare an interest: CAF Venturesome gets two mentions in the report in terms of investments made. Firstly the CAF Social Impact Fund, and secondly the deal with Oxford City Council to guarantee a loan to Arts @ The Old Fire Station).

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