top of page

When philanthropy innovates. Stepping down to be more effective.

When Philanthropy innovates, it's worth a look.

The latest in a series of bold moves by entrepreneurs (for example Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard), A large UK charity Lankelly Chase has decided to distribute its assets to other structures within a five year period.

This is an interesting move - in that it’s not simply a spend-down strategy such as Chuck Feeny’s Atlantic Philanthropies, or a bequest of one’s foundation and other personal assets to another foundation as is the case with Sir Mark Dunajtschik who decided to leave his estate to the Nikau Foundation in New Zealand).

Why this choice? They explain that they feel as a “traditional philanthropy foundation” they are part of the Colonial Capitalism problem, and thus are feeding rather than solving injustice in the social system.

This is worth noticing as traditional philanthropy* has tended in the past to be “top down” – with the wealthy thinking their experience and success in business affords them a better viewpoint on how to solve the problem, as opposed to the charity working on the ground. Traditional philanthropy has also been to causes the wealthy feel close to and/or would like to be tied to, but also that provides them with the recognition they may seek with for example their name on a building, such as a theatre or ivy league school library.

With this has come a tradition of “project funding” - where foundations require charities to pitch projects and will only fund direct project/beneficiary costs, as opposed to a more open approach and unrestricted funding that can be used by the charity for both operational/structural and program costs.

Their move is also interesting as there are other strategies that foundations can use: for example trust-based philanthropy (Mackenzie Scott is an example of this) – where the foundation will give a large sum with no strings attached. This allows the charity specialised in the issue at hand, be health, education, social justice, etc., to use the funds in the best way possible to attack the problem.

The article doesn’t delve into the debates that preceded the decision and why the choice was made to give to other structures rather than changing from within. Regardless, it will be interesting to follow their progress and see the impact their decision has on charities that receive a portion of the endowment, and on the social justice sector as a whole.

* Paul Valley and his latest book Philanthropy - from Aristotle to Zuckerberg goes in detail on the evolution of philanthropy, from ancient Greeks to modern times and how trends have evolved.

Do you have any questions on the donation strategy of your fondation or fonds de dotation? Please don't hesitate to contact us, we'd be happy to chat with you.


bottom of page