The Business Times

Philanthropy moving beyond writing cheques to more direct involvement

Raphael Lim
Published Wed, Aug 31, 2022 · 05:41 PM

PHILANTHROPY is evolving beyond wealthy individuals simply writing cheques for good causes to them having more direct involvement in the design and structuring of social solutions to drive deeper impact.

Speakers at the Credit Suisse Philanthropists Connect 2022 event on Wednesday (Aug 31) noted that there has been a trend among the younger generation of philanthropists to make use of their own expertise and business networks to drive social impact across their assets and businesses.

Benjamin Cavalli, head of wealth management Asia Pacific, at Credit Suisse, said: “We are encouraged to see that the current generation of wealth holders are not only contributing to funds, but they are also rolling up their sleeves and working directly alongside the organisation that they support.

“This generation is looking at how to pull all their resources, be it their wealth, their unique skills, their influential networks, their businesses to work for the good of all of us.”

A white paper co-authored by Credit Suisse, SymAsia Foundation and Asian Venture Philanthropy Network presented at the event noted that it is “no longer the dominant model for philanthropists to act as distant funders whose main role is to provide financial capital”.

Adrian Cheng, chief executive of Hong Kong-listed New World Development, said his frustration with the traditional philanthropic model has been the importance it puts on the donation of money.


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“(While) money is an important factor, my goal is to have a much more direct effect on communities where success can be tracked, and its impact seen and felt,” he said, noting that his foundation does not write cheques  – instead, it seeks to build a stakeholder ecosystem where it can track how much each dollar is contributing in terms of social impact.

Some initiatives he has undertaken include those related to mental health of children, as well as public-private partnership to build homes in Hong Kong.

The white paper also found that it is no longer the status quo for philanthropists to separate business operations from social and environmental impact.

“There is a growing awareness that solving complex global challenges such as climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic will require cross-sector involvement and cooperation,” the paper said.

Singapore President Halimah Yacob, who spoke at the event, noted that the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities – issues such as poverty, inequity in access to healthcare, gender inequality, and climate change.

“It is no longer sufficient that only governments think about building a fairer society, as individuals and corporations too must play their part,” she said.

Laurence Lien, chairman of the Lien Foundation, highlighted the importance of collaboration among philanthropists as they seek to solve complex problems.

“We are dealing with highly complex issues, because if they were easy, the government would have solved it, the private sector would have solved it,” he said. He added that the beauty of philanthropy is that it is not subject to political or societal pressures, and philanthropists are able to take a long-term view in their projects.

The white paper noted that philanthropists have more latitude than most to fund high-risk, out-of-the-box ideas in the hope of generating scalable solutions for transformative impact.

Lien said: “Essentially, we are problem-solvers. We are not just giving money, we are giving our time, our common intelligence, our ability to solve problems.”


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