More, better, together – a strategic review of giving in London
Those of you who know me well will know that as well as being passionate about social causes, I’m also a bit of a Londonphile: having lived here for many years, worked in the City and for the Mayor, and having led two London-wide charities.
In my current role I have also learnt a huge amount about fundraising and philanthropy. And I’ve always thought that there was more we could do to increase philanthropy to help tackle key issues the capital is facing.
That is why I was delighted to be part of the Advisory Board for the Centre for London’s Strategic Review of Giving in London. The report, published today, is the most comprehensive and significant contribution to thinking so far, with strong recommendations to a range of key organisations. It combines a historical overview with new research and detailed analysis and referencing to previous reports. It stands at 157 pages, all of which are worth reading if you have the time! The conclusions and recommendations are not just a must for anyone interested in how everyone involved in the world of fundraising and philanthropy can work better together to meet the challenges London and Londoners are facing, but contain wider insight of interest to cities around the UK wanting to increase giving.
The report shows that although London has a well-developed and thriving voluntary sector, it is actually underserved compared to the rest of the UK by charities focused solely on London issues. This is especially the case in outer London boroughs, currently experiencing much greater levels of poverty, and experiencing a reduction in the number of charities supporting local people. It also shows that despite many Londoners being incredibly generous with their time and money, especially people from different faith and ethnic communities, as Sir Harvey McGrath puts it, there are “stubbornly low levels of giving by the city’s wealthiest residents”. On the back of this evidence it calls for a range of initiatives to support more giving, particularly from the wealthiest Londoners.
It analyses reductions in corporate giving over the last few years, despite rises in profits, and points out that despite London’s success as a centre of philanthropy, that this has not translated into donations to London causes. And it recognises the vital importance of London’s trusts and foundations, their recent more collaborative approaches, and their important support for what it calls London’s “giving infrastructure” organisations.
Building on evidence provided by Remember A Charity, it highlights particularly low levels of legacy giving in London and suggests London leaders work together to increase legacy giving in the capital. Supporting Remember A Charity Week, starting on 10 September, would of course be a great start. And we at the Institute and Remember A Charity have offered to host a roundtable to discuss what practical steps can be taken to deliver this recommendation in London.
The report also includes the best summary I’ve read on the breath of social investment, with the key insight that smaller London organisations are not making the most of these opportunities compared with other areas of the country. This is significant as much of the expertise in relation to social investment exists in the capital. The IoF and others have found a skills shortage among smaller charities in raising the income they need, and have called for a concerted drive to support fundraising training. The report recommends that London funders should support fundraising capacity-building programmes for small and medium-sized charities, and we at the IoF would of course be delighted to work with them on this.
Overall, the recommendations call for the Mayor to lead on a much more strategic and joined up approach both in relation to gathering evidence of need, and in relation to supporting giving to key London causes. Within this, there is a recommendations for a London Giving Day with a strong cause-related ask at its centre. This should be music to the ears of fundraisers out there, who have for many years despaired at generic giving days which have lacked a strong proposition to connect people emotionally with causes they might care about.
The report suggests how such an annual giving day would best be convened with a cause at its centre, with space for a broader celebration of giving; with high profile support of the Mayor with other local political leaders, and leaders of London’s businesses, trusts and foundations and voluntary sector; with a targeted ask to some of the capital’s wealthiest residents alongside an inclusive appeal involving all of London’s diverse communities.
I am left reflecting how transformational such an annual might be on an issue close to many Londoner’s hearts: the shockingly high levels of deaths of young people as a result of knife crime. Surely, if developed in the right way, millions of pounds could be raised to fund organisations able to show their impact working with young people to tackle youth violence in the capital.
I strongly believe that if all the recommendations in this report are properly considered and actioned, and London leaders come together strategically as suggested, far more money will be raised in London for good causes, and that those funds raised will be better spent against London’s key priorities.
Peter Lewis, Chief Executive, Institute of Fundraising