My friend Chris Carnie at Factary in Bristol, England gave me a scoop that I am excited to share: Factary is releasing a white paper today on venture philanthropy in the UK and Europe titled The Venture Philanthropists; A Review of Venture Philanthropy Funds in the UK and the People Behind Them.
What makes this study different is that it is written by someone on the inside: Chris is a member of the Finance and Fundraising Committee of the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) and works closely with members of the venture philanthropy (VP) community. This fascinating white paper focuses on the specifics: Who they are. How much they give. What they give to. And most importantly, the keys to involving them. I asked Chris a few questions:
HELEN BROWN: Chris, how long have you been following this topic and what kind of access have you gotten to the real story?
CHRIS CARNIE: We’ve been tracking venture philanthropy in Europe since it started. I got interested when one of the founders of VP in Europe attended a training course I gave years ago; he came from a private equity background, and wanted to know more about how the nonprofit sector worked. I spent some time with him, and then got to attend the first conference on VP in Europe, in Amsterdam in 2004. Since then, I have stayed involved and now serve on the Finance and Fundraising Committee of the European Venture Philanthropy Association, EVPA.
I’m interested in VP for lots of reasons. First, it has attracted some of the cleverest people I have ever met. People who are happy to throw all of the old ideas out of the window and build something completely new, creating social change in ways that are truly inventive. Second, it reaches a section of the community that has, historically, been very hard to get to – the private equity, City of London [financial district] people. Traditional “charity” is not very attractive to these people, but VP fits perfectly with the way they think. Third, well, when you get invited to speak at a private conference in Venice or Luxembourg, it’s hard to resist…
HB: So what makes this new white paper a must-read?
CC: It’s a 70-page report on venture philanthropy in the UK. We’ve focused on the 130 or so people in the UK who have led and supported the growth of VP in the UK. The typical venture philanthropist was born in 1960 – so the median age is 51 – and is in private equity. Eight out of ten VP trustees are male, and the most common source of women on VP boards is from the nonprofit sector.
He’s likely to be wealthy, and in fact the VP community have attracted a high proportion of people of wealth – across just 11 VP funds, we’ve counted 24 who feature in the UK’s best known wealth listing, the Sunday Times Rich List.
There are currently 11 full VP funds in the UK. I’m saying “currently” because the growth rate of VP in Europe has been extraordinary. The EVPA has grown membership 25 times in the last 6 years. They are supporting a very wide range of causes – there’s a shared interest in youth and education, but they are backing health, clean energy, HIV/AIDS too, both in the UK and overseas.
HB: But there are only 11 of these funds? Why are they so important?
CC: That’s one of the keys to understanding this community of philanthropists – their influence is enormous. What’s happening is that large-scale foundations in Europe are taking a strong interest in the VP model. A number of the heavyweights have started venture funds within the umbrella of the larger foundation: an example in England is Charities Aid Foundation which runs a VP fund called Venturesome.
HB: Is that the future of VP?
CC: In part, yes. The VP model is about scale – growing small, high-impact nonprofits into bigger ones. In the UK we’re just at the start of that process (the first VP fund was set up here in 2002, four years after the Silicon Valley Venture Fund became the first VP in the US). But we’re going to see stronger growth as the large foundations get on board. We’re also going to see traditional foundations copying the impact measurement tools that the VP community has developed. There will be continued growth in this sector and much of that growth will be international – the VP community has been very good at building links across Europe and the United States. Their conferences and meetings are multi-lingual affairs.
HB: Thanks Chris for this sneak peek into the white paper. For more information or to purchase the report for £125 contact firstname.lastname@example.org.