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  1. Impact Philanthropy
July 16, 2014updated 11 Jan 2016 1:30pm

Is it time for you to reshuffle your philanthropy?

By Spear's

David Cameron’s long anticipated cabinet reshuffle has taken shape. The prime minister is evidently trying to refresh the party’s image by replacing old hands with newer faces, in what is traditionally seen as an opportunity to remove poor performers and promote fresh thinking. So is there anything that funders can learn from this? Is it time to reshuffle your philanthropy?

One of the key changes in the last 24 hours is an increase in the number of female cabinet members — albeit from a paltry three to a not-much-better five. The charity sector is a little better than the current government at promoting women to leadership positions, but it still has a way to go.

Women make up two-thirds of the charity sector’s workforce, but hold just a quarter of the chief executive positions at the 100 biggest charities (by income). Almost a quarter of the biggest charities (by assets) have fewer than two female trustees.

Organisations may be missing a trick here. There are real advantages to having the range of perspectives a more diverse leadership can bring. For philanthropists who give through a vehicle such as a charitable trust, now may be a good opportunity to look at the profile of the people who influence spending decisions and see if there are ways to increase the diversity of attitudes brought to bear on funding choices.

As Cameron promotes a new generation of ministers, some family foundations may reflect on how to make their own generational transitions, getting younger family members involved and offering them an opportunity to bring their talents to the table.

NPC previously worked with a family foundation as it refocused its giving when stewardship passed to the next generation. We supported the family to identify the areas where they were most passionate, and to build a giving strategy that would achieve results in those areas.

There may be inspiration, too, in the innovative ideas which the younger ministers are likely to bring. A breath of fresh air is welcome, and, just as the prime minister is expected to keep some of his most senior ministers in post, reviewing your strategy needn’t mean starting from scratch. Those senior figures can be essential; many funders find that they grow more confident and sophisticated in understanding the challenges they face as they gain experience.

But what to do with the old hands? All reshuffles have losers as well as winners: what happens to the charities you have previously supported who no longer match with what you’re trying to achieve?

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You should feel comfortable ending funding to charities that do not meet your funding strategy, but try to be sensitive to the effects this may have on them. Above all, give plenty of warning so that they are able to find replacement funding. This is particularly important if your giving makes up a large proportion of the charity’s income (more than 10 per cent).

Of course, there is one crucial difference. Private donors live free of the pressures created by the electoral cycle and the demands of the wider public. This freedom can be enjoyed as philanthropists make time to take stock, think hard and consider the benefits of an infusion of new ideas.

Sally Bagwell is a senior consultant at NPC

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