Tag Archives: gift capacity

The Future of Philanthropy, in 1 Question

You are at a board meeting of your charity. Board member Jane mentions her friend Peter, and says he might be interested in making a donation. Peter, she says, is the owner of a large software company.

Peter, to be clear, is NOT A CURRENT DONOR. He has not opted in or opted out or opted for anything at your charity.

Back at the office you put Peter’s name into Google. It’s in your legitimate interests to do so, and Peter would expect you to do this.

Turns out that Peter’s business is based in Newcastle.

You are in London, so there is time and travel cost to consider if you are to visit him. You use Companies House to find out about Peter’s shareholding and the company’s profits. These figures help you estimate Peter’s gift capacity. Again, it’s legitimate for a charity to estimate the size of a potential donation before it decides to spend money on a visit to Newcastle.

At an invitation-only event on the 21st of February, the Information Commissioner’s staff will tell charities and the Fundraising Regulator whether or not they can do this search.

The future of philanthropy in the UK hangs on the ICO’s reply to this one question.

Can a prospect researcher do the search outlined above?

If the answer to the question is “No”, then high-value philanthropy in the UK will change dramatically.

It will no longer be possible to use public-domain information to identify or understand potential donors. Charities, universities, museums, hospitals and theatres will have to stop, immediately, all proactive forms of reaching out to new high-value supporters.

How will high-value philanthropists react? They will give less. When charities stop asking, people of wealth will stop giving, or give less and less often.This is not just an assertion – it is demonstrated by research. In “Richer Lives: why rich people give”, Theresa Lloyd and Beth Breeze report that 69% of rich donors give ‘If I am asked by someone I know and respect.’ Charities, from cancer research to the lifeboats, will have to adapt to a dramatic cut in their income.

Some philanthropists will respond by setting up their own foundations. We know from Factary’s New Trust Update that they are already doing this in some numbers. They will manage their own projects via these foundations, meaning less money for mainstream charities.

If the answer to the question is “No”, then the ICO is taking on not just the charity sector, but pretty much every business in the UK. Because every day hundreds of thousands of secretaries, assistants and marketing people do this exact search to check up on potential customers. Can that really be the ICO’s intent?

If the answer is “Yes”, then the ICO is affirming prospect research. We CAN continue to research, understand, and evaluate potential donors and, with permission, actual donors.

We will know the future of philanthropy in the UK on the 21st of February.


Chris Carnie is the author of “How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe”, published by Policy Press. He writes in a personal capacity.


Divided Rules

Prospect researchers are at the nexus of a storm between five government agencies. Thanks to the monetary penalties imposed by the Information Commissioner in December 2016 on two leading charities we can now see the extent of the battlefield.

In one corner is the Information Commissioner’s Office, ICO. In its press release announcing fines for the RSPCA and the British Heart Foundation, ICO condemned the use of “information from publically[sic]-available sources to investigate income, property values, lifestyle and even friendship circles.”

This appears to put the ICO in direct opposition to the Charity Commission. In a series of papers entitled ‘The Compliance Toolkit’ the Commission reminds charities that they have a duty to check on donors and potential donors. Tool 6 in the suite is called ‘Know Your Donor’, and here the Charity Commission asks;

“Have any public concerns been raised about the donors or their activities? If so, what was the nature of the concerns and how long ago were they raised? Did the police or a regulator investigate the concerns? What was the outcome?”

How would you find out whether “public concerns” have been raised, if you did not use “publically-available sources”?

You simply have to use newspapers, government sources, and a search engine if you are to find out whether public concerns have been raised. There is no other way. And of course the Charity Commission says so, recommending that “full use should be made of internet websites” to check donors.

Your duty

The Commission goes further, and reminds trustees that “…if the trustees have reasonable cause to suspect that a donation is related to terrorist financing, they are under specific legal duties under the Counter-Terrorism Act to report the matter to the police. In the case of money laundering, reports can be made to the police, a customs officer (HMRC), or an officer of the National Crime Agency.” The Commission suggests a threshold for reporting – donations of £25,000 or more.

But we are not done yet. Because if you have the slightest suspicion that the donor may be a bit iffy, the Charity Commission requires you to “…check the donor against the consolidated lists of financial sanctions targets and proscribed organisations.”

Gosh.

That means this list.

The list contains 8,885 names of individuals who are under sanctions. It includes their date and place of birth, their passport or ID number, and a biographic note such as “Manager of the branch of Syrian Scientific Studies and research Centre.”

That is personal information held in the public domain, that the Charity Commission requires us to review.

The Libya Connection

Why are four government agencies – the Police, HMRC, the National Crime Agency and the Charity Commission – interested in these checks?

In part, the story is linked to the London School of Economics, and the controversy over a gift from Libya. The result of the controversy was the Woolf Inquiry, which published its report in October 2011.

After a detailed study of the history of this gift, Lord Woolf made a series of recommendations on accepting funds from “less well known” high-value philanthropists including an inquiry into the sources of their funds (p. 69) and a thorough due diligence assessment (p. 22).

These searches are only possible with public domain information.

Catch-22

Under questioning at last year’s CASE conference, ICO spokesperson Richard Marbrow did allow that we could use public domain information for due diligence purposes. But he went on to say that this same information could not be used for assessing gift capacity because that would be an “incompatible purpose” for the use of data.

But that leaves us prospect researchers in Catch-22.

I cannot carry out full due diligence on all my prospects. To do so would be a scandalous waste of charity resources. The Charity Commission suggests that the threshold should be £25,000. So if I am to decide that Mrs A or Mr B must be checked via due diligence…I have to assess their gift capacity.

To do that, I need the help of a fifth government agency, Companies House.

Open for Business

Mr Marbrow cited Companies House various times during 2016, telling fundraisers and prospect researchers that because the information in Companies House was collected for one purpose – regulation – it could not be used for another – prospect research.

What does Companies House say? Here is their July 2014 press release*

“Companies House is to make all of its digital data available free of charge. This will make the UK the first country to establish a truly open register of business information.
As a result, it will be easier for businesses and members of the public to research and scrutinise the activities and ownership of companies and connected individuals. … This is a considerable step forward in improving corporate transparency…

It will also open up opportunities for entrepreneurs to come up with innovative ways of using the information.”

So, Companies House wants us to “research and scrutinise the activities and ownership of companies and connected individuals,” and to find “innovative ways of using the information.”

The Battle for Philanthropy

Prospect researchers are caught in the centre of a battlefield between government agencies, between “innovative ways” of using information, terrorism legislation, due diligence and privacy.

We must defend our corner of this bloody battlefield.

We need our friends in fundraising and philanthropy, in Parliament and in civil society, to support the sensible, ethical, managed use of public domain information in the search for philanthropists.

 

 

*I am grateful to a colleague at a leading University for pointing this out.

Chris Carnie is the author of “How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe”, published by Policy Press. He writes in a personal capacity.


How Much Can She Give? Some maths, from Spain

Prospect research in continental Europe is tough. You spend your life saying ‘if only we had [fill in name of favourite source]’.

There are rays of light, as Europe gradually opens up to transparency, but they are rarely truly illuminating.

The hardest part is to try to estimate Gift Capacity. At Factary we define Gift Capacity as ‘the largest gift that an individual could give to any cause in ideal circumstances, over three years.’ By defining it that way we are saying, as objectively as one can in the murky world of money, that this is the best of the best, the biggest possible gift. Not ‘how much she will give to my charity‘, but how much she can give. And not ‘how much can she give this year?‘, but an amount spread over a period of three years.

How much she actually donates to your cause depends on many factors, including the strength of the connection to her, her positive and negative feelings about your organisation and, of course, how much you ask for.

But here in Catalonia and Spain, even the starting point for Gift Capacity research is difficult. So it is a Red Letter Day when some data on wealth appears.

The annual publication on directors’ salaries by the Stock Exchange Control Committee (CNMV, www.cnmv.es) is just such a day. The 2015 report was published last week.

In part the interest is vicarious. Learning that the Executive Chairs of Ibex-35 companies are now earning an average of €3.45 million is galling when you are a prospect researcher in Spain (average salary unknown but unlikely to be more than €25,000, and mostly under €20k); those Chairs earn more in three days than you earn in a year of labour.

But the data – the full report is here – does help us. Non-Exec directors are now earning an average of €763,000, up a staggering 48% on the previous year (clearly these are hard-working men and women), and the average across all quoted company directors is €344,000, up a mere 8.2% on the previous year.

So now you have an idea of how much she is earning, can you reliably calculate gift capacity?

Unfortunately, there is very little data to help you do that.

A 2006 study of tax returns [1] showed that people earning more than €600,000 per annum were giving an average of €3,268 – meaning 0.54% of their income. This was their declared giving on their declared income, and both figures are likely to be conservative.

So at your most cautious you could say that the Executive Chair of an Ibex-35 company might give 0.54% of €3.45 million, which would be €18,760.

That’s a start!

1. Sánchez Pérez, Elisa. ‘Evolución y situación actual de la filantropía en España’. In La Filantropía: Tendencias y Perspectivas, 125–46. Papeles de la Fundación de Estudios Financieros 26. Madrid, 2008. http://www.fef.es/new/publicaciones/papeles-de-la-fundacion/item/189-26-la-filantrop%C3%ADa-tendencias-y-perspectivas.html.


Gift Capacity, the debate continues

We’ve been having the regular debate on gift capacity. We are researching Mrs Philanthropist, and we ask ourselves, again, how much might she donate to The Good Charity?

Cecilia Hogan, in her excellent Prospect Research: A Primer for Growing Nonprofits (Jones and Bartlett, Mass, 2004) defines capacity as:

The financial measure of a prospect’s ability to give a major gift

and then reviews measures of wealth and interest.

Many prospect researchers use formulae to calculate gift capacity. The prospect research team at Southern Illinois University Foundation gathered a collection of these formulae in 2006. And there is a log-in site – AskAnalyzer – which uses a

sophisticated algorithm that estimates the total giving capacity of your donors and prospects over five years and provides an ask range for your organization specifically.

These formulae, as David Lamb points out on his blog

are passed from researcher to researcher like alchemical lore.

Elizabeth Crabtree and Joyce Newton gave a brilliant and thorough presentation on this topic in the September 2007 APRA conference – pointing out that there is a lot we simply cannot know about an individual (her tax filings, her debts and liabilities etc) and arguing for clearer terminology, and the use of estimates based on a range. They distinguished between gift capacity rating systems that are derived from combining known assets to estimate total wealth, and those that are derived from applying formulae to a specific wealth indicator (such as the value of a person’s home.) They sensibly suggest that researchers test formulae against recent major gifts to their own organisation, to find the most appropriate formulae for that specific organisation. They argue for measuring gift capacity, then discounting for affinity and inclination.

Jen Filla at Aspire Group, a prospect research company in the USA, wrote a useful paper on the topic of capacity formulas in 2009. She defined a ‘capacity rating’ as

a major gift dollar range for a gift over 5 years if only one gift was made.

She cautions that this is strictly based on wealth indicators and not affinity or inclination and that it does not consider unknown liabilities. Jen reminds us that a capacity rating is NOT a solicitation amount.

In the same year, 2009, I made a presentation to the Researchers in Fundraising meeting on this topic at the Natural History Museum, London. I argued that we needed two measures, a ‘Gift Rating’ measure estimated rapidly using formulae, near the start of the prospect research process, and a ‘Gift Capacity’ measure, estimated by reviewing all the data on a prospect, toward the end of the research process. The Gift Rating measure acts as a filter – if the initial, rapid, assessment indicates that the prospect has wealth then she passes on through the filter to further research.

Like Jen, I argued for Gift Capacity to be based on wealth indicators and NOT on affinity or inclination. In other words, Gift Capacity measures how much Mrs Philanthropist could give to her absolutely favourite cause, in absolutely perfect conditions. Gift Capacity, if you’ll excuse the tautology, is the person’s absolute capacity. Defined like this, Gift Capacity allows researchers to compare like with like, and to prioritise prospects. After we have an idea of absolute capacity we can discount from that amount by reviewing their motivations, connection and readiness, and on that basis come to a solicitation amount (the amount we will ask the person to donate.)

Reviewing my presentation I would now make one change. I had defined Gift Capacity as ‘The largest total gift that one person can give to any one cause, in ideal conditions, in one year.’ In hindsight, I prefer Jen’s measure over 5 years.

So, my definitions would be:

  • Gift Rating: a standardised formulae-based initial assessment of a prospect’s potential giving range
  • Gift Capacity: The largest total gift that one person could give to any one cause, in ideal conditions, over five years.

No, this is not the definitive text on this subject and yes, please, I’d like to debate this with you. Email me at chris@factary.com, and let the discussion continue.