by Nicola Hill and Cheryl Chapman
The recent launch of two organisations is pointing to a new appetite for ethics, social responsibility and philanthropy among the next generation of bankers and financiers.
Last week the Young Philanthropy Syndicate launched with the aim of encouraging young professionals into philanthropy with the support of an experienced philanthropist or business leader.
While this week a group of Oxford University students have started the 80,000 hours, campaign, the average amount of hours we work in a life time, to encourage young people to give 10% of their time or money to good causes during the length of their working careers.
The campaign also encourages young people to choose high impact ethical careers that will enhance their ability to further good causes. Founder Will Crouch, a DPhil student in ethics, suggests becoming a high earning banker with a social conscience is more impactful than being a poorly paid aid worker: “Everyone knows that when you go into a high-earning career you can earn absurdly large amounts of money. An average banker might earn about £6m over a 30-year career.
“When we see that number we get just as angry about bankers’ bonuses as anyone else, but we also see an opportunity. Say you decided to donate about half of that. You’d still be immensely well-off. But you would also be giving a lot: enough to employ several doctors in the developing world, or even to set up a charity to do almost anything you like!
“Professional philanthropy is definitely worth thinking about. It’s a little like being Robin Hood, but you’re earning the money instead of stealing it.”
Crouch says he was inspired by Oxford academic, Toby Ord, who set up Giving What We Can, which encourages people to give 10% of their income to good causes: “Toby Ord is a colleague and good friend. Though his message is somewhat different from ours - he emphasises how much good one can do through a relatively minor change in one's lifestyle; we are interested in which careers one should pursue in order to make as large a positive difference as possible - he is an inspiration to all of us at Oxford.”
Evaluation and monitoring is light touch -Crouch says: “We'll use an honesty system, where we ask people every year to report to us on their charitable giving and on their high impact ethical activities.”
Crouch, who has pledged to give over 50% of his expected earnings, this week appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme alongside Ian Hislop, who was promoting his TV programme When Bankers Were Good, which aired this week. It looked back at a time when bankers were active philanthropists – as many are today, which Hislop failed to note. Both Crouch and Hislop were encouraging today’s bankers to behave better.
The group of university students hopes to become a network of like-minded people who support each other through their careers: “When a group of like-minded people all decide to go into professional philanthropy together it’s easier to feel connected to a sense of purpose.”
This echoes one of the key motivations behind the Young Philanthropists Syndicate. Each Syndicate made-up of 10-15 young professionals is investing on average £7,000 in a niche charity project via payroll giving, that is matched by the philanthropist or business leader. The Syndicate also donate their time and expertise to the project.
City professional Michael Harris, a member of one of the first three syndicates, said the spark of the idea was a wish to be more involved in their giving as well as giving together: “We felt giving to a charity in the usual way did not feel that we were making a difference.”
High impact and leverage are also key features.
Each member gives around £15 a month that is paid into a tax efficient trust. The amount is also matched by a philanthropist so the donated amount is leveraged about 2.5 times.
“We ask charities to pitch a specific project to us that we can fund.” Harris, whose syndicate funds homelessness projects, says they are now supporting Centrepoint to create a new kitchen at one of its hostels.
“Being a specific project means we can visit and see how it is developing and report back to the group. We can be really involved.”
To hear about the first syndicates to have started and find out how your business might set up similar syndicates contact email@example.com.
To join the 80,000 group and sign a pledge promising to give 10% of your time or income to good causes, and take advantage of access to Oxford University’s research on career choice, visit the 80,000 hours website.