LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Philanthropy is booming, but charitable foundations must work more closely together to achieve real change, said a banker who advises the ultra-rich how to spend their money effectively.
More wealthy individuals, families and corporations are setting up foundations, research from Harvard University found this week, but few have the firepower of famous philanthropist Bill Gates who has an estimated fortune of about $90 billion.
About half have assets of less than a million dollars and will have to cooperate with each other if they are to achieve meaningful results, said Anna-Marie Harling, philanthropy adviser for the Swiss bank UBS which commissioned the research.
“Clients want to have an impact. They care about the causes they support and want to be as effective as they can. If you have more information you can make more informed decisions,” Harling told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
“If you know what everyone else is doing, you know who you can partner with, where there is a gap, what your value-add to the ecosystem is.”
UBS, which counts half the world’s billionaires among its clients, funded researchers at Harvard University for three years to produce a report on the state of global philanthropy.
The richest 1 percent of the world’s population owns half of its wealth, up from 43 percent in 2008, propelled in part by gains in financial assets, like stocks and bonds.
Many super rich Americans have set up foundations which run their own programs or give grants, including Gates of Microsoft, Warren Buffett, who heads the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, and the industrialist Koch brothers.
Worldwide, foundations have combined assets of $1.5 trillion, slightly more than the U.S. federal government’s 2018 budget, the UBS report found in an assessment of 39 countries around the world, including in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
The report found philanthropists were increasingly seeking partnerships with each other and with governments, mainly in India, Argentina, Ireland, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates.
Such partnerships can have a big impact, Harling said, citing a recent blog post by Gates on why the world is getting better, including a decrease in maternal and child mortality and fewer people living in poverty.
“If we look at some of the different public private partnerships that are occuring around the world, we look at some of the new finance instruments which bring in different funders, with all that, I really am hopeful for the future,” she said.
Reporting by Lee Mannion @leemannion, Editing by Claire Cozens Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org