Gimme 5: Best of the web for the week of 28th April

Morning all. I’m going to keep it brisk and businesslike today, as I’ve got a busy morning. But my unswerving dedication to the cause means that despite other commitments, I’m still serving up five juicy nuggets of philanthropy and social investment news for you to peruse at your leisure.


1) Straight in at number one is the interview in the New York Times with recently stood-down Mayor of Ney York, and noted philanthropist, Michael Bloomberg. The encouraging thing is the strong case Bloomberg makes that philanthropy is not an adequate substitute for public funding, and that as such philanthropists should focus their attention on funding risky, potentially high-impact ventures. Spot on, in my opinion.


2) At number two is some new social investment research from the City of London and Big Society Capital which shows an increasing interest in social investment amongst institutional investors, including pension and investment funds. This is interesting and very important for the future of the social investment market, as convincing these institutions to commit even a small proportion of their vast assets to social investment would have a transformative effect.


3) At number three is the intriguing finding by a pair of economists that giving donors information about the impact of their donations does not always have a positive effect. They conducted an experiment which showed that whilst donors giving more than $100 were on average likely to give more when provided with impact information, donors giving smaller amounts are actually less likely to give again if given information about impact. This suggests that there is a fundamental difference between considered, rational “philanthropy” and emotion-driven ” charitable giving”- a point that I have looked at in more detail in a previous blog post.


4) At number four this week are two closely-linked stories that suggest different things about the future for social impact bonds. First we had the surprising news that, despite its success so far, the Ministry of Justice has decided not to continue with phase 3 of the flagship Peterborough Prison SIB due to the forthcoming changes in the rehabilitation system. This prompted many to ask whether the Government’s initial flush of enthusiasm for SIBs had cooled. But then we had the news later in the week that the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced a new £30m fund to fund SIBs that support NEETs (young people not in employment, education or training). This is confusing, and raises the question of whether a split is developing in government between those who believe in SIBs as a model and those who have not bought into them?


5) And finally… Not really an “and finally” story this week, but rather a considered look at the thorny issue of whether and how charities should accept donations from individuals or organisations who carry reputational risk. In this case, the article in Slate was prompted by the revelation that the recently-disgraced owner of the LA Clippers basketball team, who was found to have made racist comments during a taped conversation, had made donations in the past to  the civil rights organisation the NAACP. The question posed by the article is whether it is better for an organisation like the NAACP to accept the donation on the basis that at least they could do good with the money, or whether that carried the risk of tacitly pardoning the donor? This is a difficult question, and one I have considered in detail in a previous blog post about “doing good with bad money”.


Rhodri Davies

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