Philanthropy in the time of covid

Christoph Courth, Head of Philanthropy, Pictet Wealth Management

Philanthropy in the time of covid

The temptation to start any article these days with ‘it has been an unprec­edented year’ is as powerful as it is redundant. I think it is fair to say that we all agree it has been a strange one to say the least. Due tothe turmoil that the pandemic has had on all aspects of our global community, it has been a pivotal time for philanthropy, one when the very systems and process­es that have supported it have been challenged. And yet this has also been a time when philanthropy has really come into its element.

To paraphrase Aristotle, giving money away is a simple feat, but do­ing so in a manner that truly achieves sustainable positive change is fraught with challenges. As an advisor to phi­lanthropists, never have I experienced such demand for my help as since March, with the questions I have had to field evolving at a rapid pace. For example, during the early days of the pandemic the focus was on how to get medical supplies to those on the front line in the health service. These questions then morphed into wider concerns about equal access to health­care and education during a time of lockdowns and remote learning. And more recently around hardship funds, unemployment, homelessness, ad­diction, domestic violence and those related to our food chains and food systems.

Many have also been revaluating their own role as philanthropists. Are the systems and requirements they have in place fit for purpose? Are they agile enough? Are they supporting the right causes? Are the expectations, timelines and parameters they attach to their support suitable? Are they re­ally leveraging all the ways they can mobilise their wealth?

“To give away is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.”

This year private capital really has been put to work extremely quick­ly, with commitments by the global philanthropic community surpass­ing €10 billion by June, according to Reimagining European Philanthropy (McKinsey). And because of this reval­uation, those assets have become more flexible, more patient, less directive and with fewer restrictions. And that is exactly how philanthropic capital performs best, putting ownership in the hands of the experts and organisa­tions working on the front line of the causes we all care about.

Now not only could this year show more wealth being pledged to social and environmental causes than ever before, but resources are being acti­vated with a renewed sense of purpose and dynamism. This can be seen in the growing determination of a ris­ing generation passionate about ad­dressing the ills they see in the world through their businesses, their invest­ments and their philanthropy.

And with a legacy of more than 200 years of social and economic con­sciousness at Pictet that permeates to the very DNA of the firm and its people, we too continue to focus not just on the ethical way we do business and on the responsible way we invest our clients’ assets, but also on how we help our clients realise their own phil­anthropic aspirations.

Read the full issue of 'Perspectives' here.

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