The many faces of philanthropy

Cancer Research UK

With more wealthy people willing to give to charitable causes than ever before, why do the stats show a low rate of donations among high-net-worth individuals? Wealth advisers say that while the passion for philanthropy is palpable, the range of giving options and their benefits can be unclear. For Cancer Research UK, this has provided the perfect challenge. Joanna Lewin finds out more

“For many high- and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs/UHNWIs), philanthropy can offer something new – a real sense of purpose,” says James Maloney, Partner at law firm Farrer & Co at a recent panel event hosted by David Bell of the Private Client Dining Club, sponsored by private client services firm, Hawksford. The aim of this perhaps unlikely meeting of minds – lawyers, philanthropy managers and cancer researchers – was to explore the evolving dexterity of philanthropy and the associated role of advisers.

There is, of course, strong insight to support James’ claim. The Wealth-X Billionaire Census suggests that after business, philanthropy is the second leading passion among UHNWIs. And Cancer Research UK’s success in raising £100m in philanthropic donations towards the creation of the Francis Crick Institute – Europe’s largest biomedical research facility under one roof – has engendered an enthusiastic cohort of philanthropists poised and excited to support more of our innovative work. As Darren Kelland, Global Head of Client Services at Hawksford, muses: “The mere mention of philanthropy gets clients’ attention … This has become such a socially important issue that clients are reaching out to say we want to do something or give back, even if they don’t know what that is yet.” But despite this clear interest and intention, according to research by Beacon Collaborative, only 10% of the UK’s wealthiest 18,000 people donate at all.

A philanthropic continuum

So, what’s causing the gap? For Anthony Donatelli, Director of Philanthropy Services UK at UBS, the answer lies in the sometimes unclear return on investment in scenarios where philanthropists want to see one – known as ‘impact investing’. He points out that, like the financial investments that propelled HNWIs to success, impact investments should hint strongly at “measurable impact over time”. And while social benefits can be correlated with these investments, it’s often harder for charities to show a causal link. “Donors come to philanthropy with the same business-like mindset that got them their wealth in the first place,” he explains. “They want to solve one problem and exit their philanthropy, like they exited their business, and move on to the next problem.”

But as Sianne Haldane, Head of Planned Giving Philanthropy at Cancer Research UK, explains: “At CRUK, we’re ideally placed to offer a range of bespoke and tailored opportunities, right across the continuum from ‘pure’ philanthropy to impact investing.” As the world’s largest independent funder of cancer research, and with a network of researchers in all four corners, we have the oversight and flexibility to identify small or large-scale projects, researchers, institutes and broad themes in cancer research that we can offer to philanthropists as having an immediate effect or a slow-burning benefit. Discovery research – which focuses on the fundamentals of human biology – is often funded by ‘pure’ philanthropy, where the individual expects no return. And at the other end of the spectrum, clinical alliances and spin-out ventures focused on translating discoveries into new treatments offer opportunities for impact investing.  

Spinning out

Dr Stephen Shaw, Associate Director of Commercial Partnerships at Cancer Research UK, gives the compelling example of drug company Artios: “It was spun out of CRUK-funded research with a small amount of seed-funding from CRUK and investors. The drug went through Series A and B funding in just two years and leveraged £100m. That’s a company that’s really going on to great things thanks to the backing of early venture philanthropists.”

With Cancer Research UK sat across the broad spectrum of research, and therefore philanthropic or investment opportunities, we are uniquely placed to meet the objectives of would-be supporters around the globe.

If you are a wealth adviser, or someone looking to start a philanthropic journey, and would like to know more about partnering with Cancer Research UK, please contact nicola.lightfoot@cancer.org.uk

Joanna Lewin is Philanthropy & Partnerships Communication Manager and Editor at Cancer Research UK