March 08 2010
For those unaware of the monumental era in which they donate, this is the Fifth Philanthropic Age. At least, according to Matthew Bishop and Michael Green, authors of Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World (A&C Black, £9.99) it is – and it’s a pronouncement rooted solidly in the history of giving, from the Renaissance merchants who first created charitable trusts (Phase One), to the rise of the billionaire mega-philanthropist (Phase Four – thanks, Mr Rockefeller).
Previous eras had distinctive characteristics; likewise, according to Green and Bishop, the current one champions a market-driven, strategic approach to giving. It was precisely to cater to this new breed of philanthropist that GlobalGiving.co.uk – an online company that links givers to charities – created the “Thousand Pound Club” Charity Portfolio in December.
“It acts much like a shares portfolio, and we’re much like a financial adviser,” explains its chief executive, Sharath Jeevan. “Clients tell us what kind of causes they’d like to invest in, and we draw up a portfolio of projects reflecting their philanthropic interests” – so, for example, 30 per cent to water distribution, 60 per cent to primary education in India (second picture), and the remainder to, say, green causes or affordable housing construction. Says Jeevan, “It’s charity, but businesslike.”