Emma Turner

The Smarter Giving landscape

15 November 2019

3 minute read

Emma Turner, Director of Barclays Private Bank Philanthropy Service, reveals how the evolution of charitable giving is creating a wealth of new opportunities for donors.

Fundraising is hard. Incredibly rewarding, but hard.

Emma Turner

Director of Barclays Private Bank Philanthropy Service

My journey in giving started in 1998, when a friend asked me to help with raising money for a drug and alcohol support project in London. Easy, I thought. A walk in the park. I’ll just contact friends – and friends of friends – and we’ll have the money raised within a year or two. That misconception was squashed very quickly.

Fundraising is hard. Incredibly rewarding, but hard. It took three and a half years to get that particular project up and running and I spent a decade there altogether. I learned many things during that first decade in the charity sector. Then I moved to the private sector and worked at an American investment bank running their charitable services.

There were many more lessons learned but there was one moment that really stuck with me. A senior managing director – the sort of person who could put together an M&A deal in a matter of hours – came to see me as he was completely perplexed about how to start some charitable giving. He wanted to find a cause to help but didn’t know how to begin.

Appetite for advice

I found this extraordinary, but also understandable. There wasn’t much in the way of consistent, reliable and unbiased advice available for someone looking to donate at his level. And as I started to talk to more senior business people, this appetite for advice was something they all shared.

My role, then, is to help our clients and their family take the first steps on their giving journey. Clients want to know what they need to know before they start. Some have even started and got stuck, so I can help them reset the compass.

From FTSE 100 chief executive officers to tech entrepreneurs to successful families, the people I advise are a broad church with one thing in common: they want to use their wealth and skills for the greater good.

A challenge and an opportunity

When I joined Barclays during the financial crisis in 2008. I assumed it would be a difficult time to discuss philanthropy with wealthy people (who often were no longer quite so wealthy).

In fact, what I saw was that in a recession of that magnitude, there is a raising of social conscience. People better understood what it meant to struggle and so were more receptive to giving.

We released our first giving report (Barriers to Giving) a year later. It was borne from the realisation that there was little available insight around the charitable donations of the wealthy (or, indeed, advice for them), but also because it gave our private bankers something positive to discuss with their clients, rather than the woeful state of the markets at the time.

Now, in 2019, we’ve published the follow-up – also titled Barriers to Giving – to see how the landscape has changed.


A data-driven approach has a huge appeal, as it shows clear return on investment.

Various media reports of issues around some charities, from financial mismanagement to staff behaviour, have contributed to a drop in donations – in the tens of millions of pounds, in some cases. It’s no longer enough for them just to say: ‘I’m a charity. Trust me.’ Potential benefactors are demanding more rigour and transparency.

They want to know that if charity A says it’s fixing problem B by doing C, then where does their money fit into that chain? And how is that money helping the charity move the needle on the problem? Increasingly, there are charities that will struggle to be able to make that message clear and tangible. But those who can, will thrive.

I think the more that we can encourage donors to do their due diligence and probe charities before getting involved, the stronger and more robust those charities will become. They’re going to have to account for themselves more clearly and I think that donors will have more peace of mind that their money is going to the right place to do the right thing.

Technology will play a huge part in this. Indeed, if you look at the work of someone like Alexandre Mars’ Epic Foundation (see page 12), it’s clear that a data-driven approach has a huge appeal, as it shows clear return on investment on every donation.

This is a definite trend that I’m seeing. People are using their business skills and judgement when it comes to giving, not just their hearts. Of course, you need your heart to be in it – the passion has to be there – but you also need to know who you’re giving this money to and what they’re doing with it. It’s simple due diligence, like any investment.

A bright future

We have unprecedented wealth in the world at the moment and I want to help unlock some of that for the people who need it most. But I won’t strong arm anyone. It’s their money and they can do what they want with it. However, for those who do want to investigate giving, I’m here to help them discover what they need to know.

I also believe that, when it comes to the next generation, clients often want to encourage their children to have a social conscience and understand the value of money.

Philanthropy offers the opportunity to better understand the world around them, which is very different to the world that their parents grew up in. Because these children have probably never had to worry about the shopping bill, whereas their parents probably struggled to pay it at some point in their life. Giving can build character.

This is why I believe in starting them young. Our Future Giving Guide [PDF, 3.41MB] – which looks at how to involve families in giving – begins at five and goes up to 25. But I think what’s really important is, whatever the age of the child, to make sure that what they’re doing is relevant to them. That’s how you stoke the fires of a lifelong passion for giving.

That said, it shouldn’t feel pressured. Start small, like you might with an investment portfolio. The world will always have problems to solve and, if and when you’re ready, I can show you how to help solve them.


Barriers to Giving

A ‘lack of faith’ between wealthy individuals and charities is a key obstacle to giving in the UK, our latest report Barriers to Giving has found. The UK’s philanthropic donations amount to just 0.5% of national GDP, compared with 2.1% in the US. This lack of major donors is having a considerable impact on UK charitable funding.


The future of giving is Smarter Giving

There is no doubt that philanthropy is a powerful force, transforming lives on both sides of the giving equation. But many misunderstandings and barriers exist around the subject, detering potential givers from donating money and time to deserving causes.

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