We know you’re smart, but are you a smart giver?

11 November 2019

Emma Turner

Emma Turner

Director of Barclays Private Bank’s Philanthropy Service

“It was a Tuesday and it was raining, so I thought why not?” So started Emma Turner’s thirty-year career in philanthropy.

The Director of Barclays Private Bank’s Philanthropy Service has first-hand experience of many of the challenges associated with giving from her time spent working at a major London charity, Goldman Sachs and Barclays.

 “What we’re experiencing is unprecedented wealth and unprecedented poverty,” said Turner, speaking at a London event hosted by BeMORE, an organisation that connects and mobilises philanthropists.

“Giving is not increasing in [the UK]. If anything, it’s slightly going down,” she explained.

One explanation for this is that charities have frequently experienced bad press in recent years. For example, Comic Relief was accused of investing millions of pounds raised in tobacco, alcohol and the arms industry in 20141. Turner pointed out that Comic Relief’s profit was down £8m last year2. Despite this, givers tend to be incredibly trusting, she argued.

People give for a wide range of reasons, whether it is responding to disaster relief appeals, or sponsoring friends, without knowing how the money will be used. “As much as £317bn (US$410bn) was given to charity in the US last year and £10.1bn (US$13.6bn) in the UK,”Turner said.

“I’ve seen a lot of very naïve giving by very good and very smart people,” she added.

For this reason, Turner believes in ‘smart giving’. “There are 52 leukaemia charities in this country. How do you choose?” she asks. “I’m going to give you the five key ingredients to my smart giving recipe,” Turner told the BeMORE audience.

Emma Turner’s five key ingredients for smart giving

1. Tugging on your heartstrings

Charities understandably use very strong emotionally messages to get the attention of a donor, but Turner doesn’t recommend giving to the first charity you’re drawn to. There are usually multiple charities working for the same cause.

“Take that emotional hat off. Put a slightly cooler head on and go about this in a slightly more strategic business-like manner, without your heart pumping and racing,” she advised.

2. Combining your passions with your frustrations

Consider what type of charity fits with the changes you’d like to see. For example, ask yourself whether you want to support a campaign or research organisation?

“We all feel passionate and very frustrated about different things. Passion and frustration is the best combination… because then you really do push the envelope and take your giving a bit further,” said Turner.

“Do something, but don’t rush into it,” she added.

3. Read the small print

A charity’s website should publicise contact details, their board and staff members, depending on the size of the organisation. Its latest annual report should be accessible as well as documenting the impact of previous donations.

All of this indicates how well a charity is run and if you can’t find it online, give them a call, Turner advised.

4. The financials

Research a charity’s fundraising too, regardless of its size. Ask whether it’s achieving growth and if it’s getting funding from different sources.

If a charity receives most of its funding from one source, it can face existential problems if that source dries up.

For this reason, every charity should have at least six months of funding held in reserve, Turner argued.

5. It’s not just about the money

The most important ingredient is a charity’s impact on the cause it wants to fix. “It’s not just about the money,” Turner said. Documenting impact doesn’t have to be complicated - it could just be some good case studies.

“You also want to know the stuff that doesn’t go so well, because... no charity will get it all right,” advised Turner.

“Smart givers should believe that their time, talent and treasure are important social investments,” she said. “By using your heart, your heart and these five tips, you can [ensure] your giving has the greatest impact,” she concluded.

Barclays Private Bank will be publishing a comprehensive report investigating the latest barriers to giving. To receive updates and other insights into philanthropy please follow us on LinkedIn.


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