Cheryl Chapman, director of City Philanthropy, explains on City Giving Day why you shouldn't just chase the super rich
This article first appeared on 11/07/2014 on the Guardian's Voluntry Sector Network's finance hub.
Amid what is expected to be the wealthiest divorce case of all time, that of the Posh & Becks of philanthropy – billionaire hedge funder Chris Hohn and his soon to be ex-wife Jamie Cooper-Hohn, is a curious insinuation.
Both appear to be arguing that they encouraged the other into philanthropy. I was most struck by what Hohn said. Apparently, he was always interested in philanthropy, but said he was a realist and felt he had to be rich before joining the ranks of Warren Buffett et al. But the idea that you have to be rich to be a philanthropist is plain wrong.
Effective philanthropy today is "not about what you give, but the way that you give it", in the words of "philanthropod" Caroline Fiennes, director of Giving Evidence. Size should not matter – it's what you do with your resources that can really count.
The Lord Mayor Alderman Fiona Woolf, who is a vocal supporter of philanthropy, makes the same point in an article about her City Giving Day happening this Friday. "Anyone can be part of the movement to give, regardless of their wealth or position," she says.
The "giving circles" and networks we work with at City Philanthropy aim to engage younger professionals. They include The City Funding Network, Young Philanthropy and The Bread Tin, which emphasises that for the price of a daily coffee, anyone can be (and more people should be) an impactful philanthropist.
By pooling money with like-minded folk, being clever about leverage and mindful of tax efficiencies, and strategising about how you best direct your modest funds, you can maximise your bang per buck and have powerful impact.
Philanthropy is being democratised. Anyone spending or giving money is naturally in a position of some control, whether they like it or not. Philanthropy can allow access to certain communities, broaden networks and connect influential people with each other. The fewer people spending or giving money to charity, the more concentrated the seat of power.
That said, skills sharing is as valuable in philanthropy as donating money, and can bring about the same benefits. Groups like goprobono are connecting charities with businesses and individuals who are looking to offer their skills where they are needed most.
The platform brings together over 70 brokers that offer thousands of volunteering opportunities in London and across the UK.
While the super rich might be a hard-to-reach lot, there's a bigger resource for charities to tap into and hopefully City Giving Day will bring even more out to support.
Cheryl Chapman is director of City Philanthropy.