These are the words which resonate on many levels from the discussions at our recent philanthropy symposium. From developing policy for philanthropy to engaging with philanthropy – private or corporate, to building understanding and awareness of giving, or acting on hope that things can be different – it was all about the now!

Development of a philanthropy policy is critical for the growth and development of philanthropy in Ireland. While the opening remarks from Joe O’Brien, TD, Minister of State with special responsibility for Community Development and Charities, on the commitment of government and indeed his own departments strategy for philanthropy policy are very welcome, urgency is needed to advance. Policy is critical to realise the potential of philanthropy for our society benefit. The time is ‘Now’, the opportunity is ‘Now’, the need is ‘Now’ as we move from crisis to continuity.

Contributions from the family donors not alone made philanthropy very real but highlighted the passion, interest, and commitment, to giving back that is inherent in the fabric of many families in Ireland. The inter-generational commitment augurs well for the future of philanthropy. But this cannot and should not be taken for granted, rather it should be supported. Using different models for their giving, both families noted the journey of giving, how it evolves and the importance of connecting their giving to their different passions. But there was consensus on the closing advice for other donors – ‘Do it now’!   

Corporate giving is vital to many causes. Speaking to their involvement in philanthropy, Fernando Vicario, CEO of Bank of America Europe DAC noted that it is not just about funding but more broadly and fundamentally it is about engagement. And not just engagement of the business, but personal engagement, underlining the need for leadership in business for effective engagement. Giving back for their business is about sharing success:

‘One way of sharing success is by being active through philanthropic initiatives and this is core to Bank of America culture, and we believe in it’

While noting the importance of engaging in partnerships, this can be challenging for business. But in emphasising the need to find more sources to mobilise philanthropic capital, Fernando once again placed a focus on the ‘Now’ by saying it is expected by many stakeholders of businesses.

In the closing keynote address, Beth Breeze of Centre for Philanthropy in University of Kent, reflected on how much of what was discussed was not unique to Ireland. From her experience and studies, the perspectives being presented resonated. Drawing on the discussion she noted that giving is driven by passions, there is a desire for family involvement, which provides a platform for role modelling, and that there is little ego attached. In referencing support for philanthropy, it was noted that tax stimulus, rather than it being a negative, it can positively increase the amount of money available to give. Pointing to the value of philanthropy Beth noted that:

‘During the pandemic, philanthropy played a really big role … was there for research, it was there for relief and now it needs to be there for rebuilding because actually a lot of things have gone backwards…… we need philanthropy now more than ever’.

Believing the opportunity and need for philanthropy is ‘Now’ was the definitive underlying message emerging throughout the discussion. We can support that through discussions such as this. As Beth referenced, ‘it doesn’t help if nobody talks about it’.

But an enabling environment remains critical to advancing philanthropy. We need policy and leadership if we are to activate all levers necessary to turn the dial. The time is ‘Now’.

And that can be done – the words of Sasha Terfous presenting her poem, ‘Hope’, provided the inspiration that much can be achieved.

A sincere and profound thanks to all who contributed to the event – your insights, words and lived experiences made for rich and valuable discussion.

Éilis Murray

October 2021

To access Opening Address by Minister O’Brien, please click here.

To access poem of ‘Hope by Sasha Terfous please click here.