Putting philanthropy at the top of the City’s agenda

Look out your office window and you will see a “philanthroscape” – the City’s bridges, hospitals, schools, prisons, alms houses and churches we walk past everyday were built on the donations of the wealthy businessmen of yesteryear, including its most famous lord mayor Dick Whittington.

The City’s rich philanthropic tradition continues today – but quietly. While the City gives hundreds of millions of pounds every year through corporate programmes, individual donations, charitable grants, pro-bono work and volunteering, it is not a narrative that makes it into the wider world. The “Philanthropy in the City” story is drowned out by the din of demonisation of bankers that dominates the media.

Yet, in an age of austerity and an era of inequality, never has it been more important to celebrate and champion our giving – for the good of the City’s reputation, its business and for society. Alongside the potential for a good business in philanthropy, there is a dawning realisation that philanthropy and corporate and social responsibility make for good business.

From the many hundreds of corporates that engage with their communities, there is a growing body of evidence that such programmes improve employee retention, attract new clients and enhance reputation – a particularly vulnerable asset in the aftermath of the banking crisis.

This sentiment is the springboard for the campaign “City Philanthropy – A Wealth of Opportunity”, funded by The City of London Corporation’s charity City Bridge Trust, that aims to capitalise on philanthropy for the good of society, donors, business and the City.

Building on existing generosity, and acting as a hub for all things philanthropy in the City, the campaign aims to inspire, educate, inform, facilitate and connect giving and givers, particularly the City’s next generation. It also positions London as a potential capital of global philanthropy for international givers, highlighting its local supply of world-class professional expertise, philanthropy friendly tax and policy rules, and its strategic geographic advantages.

We are already seeing a groundswell of “new philanthropy” among young professionals, who are forming networks that allow them to socialise around giving to causes that motivate them. The Young Philanthropy Syndicate, led by Deloitte’s Adam Pike and PwC’s Michael Harris, The Bread Tin, The Philanthropy Club and the City Philanthropy Campaign’s own City Funding Network, which raised £27,000 in an hour at its last event, bring fun and friendship to the serious business of giving. They also show philanthropy is not just for the wealthy – you can join these strategic philanthropists for less than a cup of coffee a day.

Our aim over the next few years, with the backing of the current lord mayor Roger Gifford and his “City in Society” appeal, is to put philanthropy back on the City’s agenda and to champion the win, win, win opportunity for society, business, givers and the City.

Cheryl Chapman is philanthropy manager for The City of London Corporation’s charity, City Bridge Trust.