Talking to Times Law

I’m grateful to be in The Times newspaper’s law section today⁩ discussing why I left private school at 16, my career in #philanthropy, the battle to open civil partnerships to different sex couples, and launching a new legal fund, Law for Change, ⁩alongside ⁦philanthropists Stephen Kinsella and David Graham


Alliance looks at how philanthropy can anticipate and respond to crisis

Why do some crises receive more attention and funding than others? Does philanthropy have a particular responsibility in ensuring funding goes to the right place, at the right time and in the right way? If so, how well is it discharging that responsibility? Our latest special feature explores that question.

Latest issue of Alliance and special feature on the decolonisation of philanthropy

I’m happy to say that the new issue of Alliance is now out

In it, we ask: What does decolonisation mean when it comes to philanthropy? And should more foundations be practicing it?

There’s lots to say on this question in our special feature, guided by features editor Andrew Milner (see Andrew’s introductory article here) and guest edited by Shonali Banerjee (Centre for Strategic Philanthropy, Cambridge University) and Urvi Shriram (Indian School of Development Management). They explore why decolonisation is essential to a more equitable world – ‘an essential step towards a broader paradigm shift in the sector.’

Our guest editors warn that ‘an unwillingness by philanthropists to transform governance will result in long-term colonial legacies and top-down power structures remaining in place’. They also issue a warning for homegrown philanthropy arguing ‘that truly decolonised philanthropy calls for more than just an increased number of representative non-white philanthropists, if these individuals are potentially recreating harmful practices in their home countries.’ That’s something I pick up in my editorial which questions whether the presentation – in crude terms – of northern vice and southern virtue could be counter-productive to the process of decolonisation. Read morehere.

The feature includes viewpoints from Brazil, India, South Africa, Lebanon and Canada as well as a dialogue with Edgar Villanueva, the author and founder of the decolonising wealth project. 


We hear from Maria Souza of the Casa Fund in Brazil who calls on more Brazilian philanthropists to follow MacKenzie Scott’s lead in backing progressive civil society. We also talk to the CEO of the conservative Philanthropy Roundtable, Elise Westhoff who tells Alliance that she is open to a dialogue about decolonisation though wants to better understand its meaning first.

New issue of Alliance explores learning from failure

The latest issue of Alliance magazine explores the question of learning from failure. Guest edited by Donika Dimovska of the Jacobs Foundation, I used the theme of the issue to reflect on my past failures at the Pears Foundation in relation to work on Israel and Palestine – a hard article to write!

I hope philanthropy practitioners reading the feature will find it useful in the context of how to set realistic but ambitious goals and why it’s important to consider what amount of risk to assume. I also hope it inspires more conversations on the topic.

The new issue also carries a lively and candid interview with Luc Tayart de Borms reflecting on his 25 years at the King Baudouin Foundation and role at the heart of European philanthropy.

An agenda for mental health philanthropy

Alliance magazine has just published an in-depth feature on mental health philanthropy as part of our latest issue.

Below, I offer a few words of introduction and some suggestions for what I think philanthropy ought to be doing in this area.

Many of you reading this, like myself, will have struggled with mental ill health at some point or supported a loved one who has. The issue of mental health touches us all though it is the most vulnerable people and communities who suffer most acutely. They should be at the forefront of philanthropy’s response. But for too long, and for too many people, that has not been the case.

As this Alliance feature highlights, mental health has been under-served even among foundations addressing health issues. That’s a discredit to philanthropy which at its best gives resources and visibility to neglected issues. But it is also an opportunity for philanthropy. As the WHO and national governments renew their focus on mental health, there are multiple opportunities to make a difference.

First, philanthropy should advocate to ensure that rhetorical commitments by governments to mental health are matched by substantial increases in public spending.

Second, philanthropy should use its influence to press for mental health spending to be targeted where evidence suggests it’s most needed, for example in research, prevention and treatments.

Third, philanthropic support in this area should tackle broader social and economic determinants of inequality. This could include campaigning for governments to provide more welfare protection for their citizens for example through universal basic income and universal health coverage.

Finally, progressive foundations could back calls for a three-day weekend – allowing people to enjoy leisure and nature with their friends and families, and the time and space to volunteer in their communities. While this may seem utopian, foundations are ideally placed to support promising ideas and the policy work needed to overcome barriers to successful implementation.

Prompted by the pandemic, it is welcome to see foundations changing policies and practices to improve the mental health and well-being of their staff, partners and grantees. Could the impetus of the Covid pandemic be the moment to increase the scale and focus of funding for mental health worldwide? Beyond their own organisations, foundations can and should go further giving attention to the systems which make so many of us susceptible to mental ill health. That’s an opportunity for philanthropy too good to miss.

Also in the issue: Carmen Rojas, OECD and Philea.

Beyond mental health, the issue features an interview with Dr Carmen Rojas, the outspoken president of the Marguerite Casey Foundation who warns about the ‘say-do’ gap in philanthropy – too much talk and not enough action when it comes to racial justice. Another organisation offering a challenge to philanthropy is the OECD. In their latest report on effective development, the OECD notes that philanthropy ‘has a long way to go to be the game changer it aspires to be’.

At Alliance itself, we’ve begun 2022 with a spring in our step after an intense 25th anniversary year. There are significant developments afoot. These include our further globalisation through the arrival of regional representatives in under-served regions where philanthropy infrastructure – and thus access to networks and sources – is still emerging.

I hope you enjoy the new issue

Wishing you mindful reading.

Alliance new issue looks at wealth tax, food systems philanthropy and more

The latest issue of Alliance is out – the final edition of an eventful 25th anniversary year. 

Special feature on food systems philanthropy

Our centrepiece is a 30 page feature looking at the intersection of food and philanthropy. Published in the aftermath of the UN Food Systems Summit and COP26, our guest editor, Ruth Richardson of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, argues that philanthropy should take a far more systemic approach ‘situating food systems transformation centrally in climate, biodiversity, hunger and health agendas’. As such, the feature challenges funders to explicitly connect food systems to substantial funding in cause adjacent areas. This is an issue which has been bubbling up for some time so we hope you find our stock take of key questions as well as perspectives from India, Brazil and other countries helpful. Our coverage of food systems will continue until early February before we switch to the focus of our March 2022 issue – the agenda for mental health philanthropy.

Elsewhere in our new issue we discuss…

Hobson’s choice – more tax, more philanthropy

The Patriotic Millionaires movement in the US and its international counterpart, Partners in Progress, is calling on those with the broadest shoulders to pay more tax on income derived from wealth. These calls are challenging claims in some quarters that there is a binary choice between asking multimillionaires to give more philanthropically or requiring them to pay more tax. In our new issue, Graham Hobson – a philanthropist who made his fortune through the sale of online photo printing company Photobox– explains why he’s joined a campaign demanding people like him should pay more and give more.

The Bridgespan Group

We also interview Bridgespan’s co-founder, Jeff Bradach about big issues facing philanthropy, proposals to reform laws around giving, diversifying boards, work in India and South Africa and why Bradach thinks that ending racial disparities is the route to social justice in the US and beyond. What Bridgespan says matters: they advise some of the world’s leading philanthropists, including one MacKenzie Scott.

There were two other notable moments for Alliance during this period:

Alliance at COP26

The first was reporting direct from the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow – the only philanthropy publication to do so as far as I’m aware. You can read all our climate coverage here including our interview with the Hewlett’s Foundation’s Larry Kramer and the Clean Air Fund’s, Jane Burston.

Does philanthropy get the media it deserves?

700 people registered for an online gathering to discuss the future of the philanthropy media. In partnership with the Chronicle of Philanthropy, we brought together leading philanthropy editors to discuss key issues facing philanthropy, how these issues are covered and how we’re funded. It was a lively discussion which you can listen to here.

25 years in philanthropy: Alliance magazine’s 100th issue

We’ve just published the 100th issue of Alliance. It forms the centrepiece of Alliance‘s 25th anniversary year, and I’m naturally proud we’ve reached this milestone while finding new ways to be relevant and inspiring to readers. Working in the non-profit media, that’s not something we take for granted. We think our success – and resilience – is down to hard work, robust editorial judgement, progressive funding and most of all, placing our readers at the heart of global philanthropy.

There are so many outstanding contributions in our special 100 page, 100th issue, that it’s hard to know what to highlight and possibly invidious to single out any one contribution.

But here’s a taste of what you can expect:

  • Results of our readers’ poll of the most impactful foundations and initiatives over the last 25 years
  • Reflections on key trends from philanthro-capitalism to community philanthropy, the movement to shift power, and discussion about trust based philanthropy and core funding
  • Thoughts from veteran practitioners on what they know now as they look back on their career in philanthropy
  • Views from leading philanthropists on what’s needed over the next 25 years for the field to fulfil its potential
  • A mini-series of articles focusing on philanthropy’s contradictions and legitimacy in an era of growing wealth inequality hearing from defenders, critics and reforming voices

We also publish a powerful piece from a dedicated group of 25 year olds – philanthropy practitioners born in 1996 – the same year as Alliance – who share hopes and dreams for the future. 

The issue includes comment from our founding editor and board members of Alliance Publishing Trust, some critique of our editorial direction and a layout of plans for the future growth and development of Alliance. And, finally, the issue ends with a spread thanking funders for the backing and support which has helped make it all possible.

We’ll be holding a celebratory event at the Aga Khan Foundation in London on 16th September. Please do consider registering for the livestream so you can watch from where you are.

I hope you enjoy the anniversary issue in this special year for the Alliance community.

Climate philanthropy before COP26

‘Will we be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye and tell them that we did everything we could, when just 2 per cent of philanthropic giving is directed towards mitigating climate change?’

This stark question is posed in the conclusion of a hard-hitting European Foundation Centre (EFC) report on environmental funding published shortly before we went to print.

The urgency of this question reverberates across our latest issue – the fourth devoted to climate change and sustainability in Alliance magazine’s 25-year history.

Many of the themes remain depressingly similar to coverage in the aftermath of the Paris COP five years ago: an inexcusable lack of funding to address climate change head on, a concern that communities at the sharp end of climate change are bearing the brunt of its impacts and fears that foundations are accelerating the climate crisis by continuing to invest their endowments in fossil fuels.

Yet despite this, there are signs that we are on the eve of change as we approach the critical United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November.

In our own field, funders are signing new commitments to act, leading climate philanthropists such as the Oak Foundation’s vice-chair, Kristian Parker and CIFF founder, Christopher Hohn are contributing significant resources, galvanising peers through bodies such as the Climate Leadership Initiative, Active Philanthropy, ClimateWorks Foundation and the European Climate Foundation, and exerting influence at the highest levels of government. Philanthropy is ‘incredibly influential’ according to the UK’s High-Level Climate Action Champion, Nigel Topping, interviewed in this issue.

But the key challenge now is for every sector, including philanthropy, to translate positive aspirations, commitments and targets into significant enough change to stop our planet over-heating.

Will more foundations increase funding to work which directly challenges the status quo? Are we willing to back causes reinventing the way we live and work? Too few foundations are currently pursuing more disruptive solutions. ‘It feels as though the social movements that are opening up political space are running well ahead of philanthropic foundations,’ according to the EFC report. Bridging this gap may be a necessary condition for foundations to play the most impactful role in tackling the climate emergency.

Alliance will provide weekly coverage of developments over this vital decade – all part of our ClimatePhilanthropy 2030 commitment. And this issue guest edited by Felicitas von Peter and Winnie Asiti is a further part of that effort. As Felictas and Winnie note, ‘we are not the first generation to have realised what’s at stake, but the last one to be able to provide a tomorrow that is resilient, just and peaceful. We have much to lose, but a lot more to gain.’

Elsewhere, we talk to prominent Brazilian philanthropist and GIFE president, Neca Setubal about the work of her foundation in tackling social realities on the periphery of Sao Paolo. And we continue our focus on funding practice with a look at how Michael Feigelson led the internal overhaul of the Bernard van Leer Foundation during his tenure as executive director.

We hope you enjoy the issue – and everything still to come in this special 25th anniversary year for the Alliance community.

Charles Keidan is Executive Editor at Alliance magazine.

Law philanthropy – Alliance’s March 2021 issue out now

The first print issue of our 25th anniversary year has just been published.

Obviously, reaching 25 years old in the world of non-profit media is not something we take for granted so I’ve used my editorial to say thank you to readers, friends and supporters for the trust you place in our mission to hold up a mirror to our field.

This issue’s special feature examines the intersection between law and philanthropy. It was guest edited by David Sampson at the UK’s Baring Foundation and Nicolette Naylor at the Ford Foundation in South Africa. They argue that philanthropic engagement with the law is at its most purposeful – and profound – when helping to enlarge the space for communities to seek justice sometimes far away from courts. ‘Courtroom judgements are only part of the solution’ they note in their opening article.

Elsewhere, James Goldston and Martin O’Brien take a retrospective look at 25 years of legal philanthropy reflecting on their work at OSF and Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Mott Foundation discusses its work supporting community based paralegals across Africa.

Given the issues around ‘closing space’, we also explore a critical role for philanthropy in supporting liberal democracy, a pluralistic civil society and the rule of law in Europe and beyond. Many of the tools to fund effectively in this area are familiar: a commitment to the longer term, a willingness to provide core funding and a tolerance for risk.

Outside our special feature, there are articles about child protection philanthropy at Porticus, philanthropic efforts to combat social polarisation in France, and an interview with the recently appointed CEO of the German Association of Foundations.

I hope you enjoy our latest issue.

Stay tuned for our next issue in June focused on climate philanthropy in the run up to the COP26 in Glasgow.

Dr Tedros, Ban Ki-moon and Wellcome Trust headline the new issue of Alliance magazine dedicated to global health philanthropy – out now

We’ve just published Alliance magazine’s new issue dedicated to global health philanthropy.

The centrepiece is an exclusive interview with Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation in conversation with Prof Senait Fisseha, a health expert and director of global programs at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. In the interview,  Dr Tedros issues a call on philanthropy to stand up for the values of international co-operation, and advocate for increased investment in public health.

At $46 billion each year – almost a quarter of all grantmaking – philanthropy spends more on health-related causes than anything else. As the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified, philanthropy has provided critical funding for vaccine development, medical equipment, mutual aid, social welfare, and global health infrastructure. But there is intense debate about how the largest foundations interact with governments, international bodies and pharmaceutical companies and who holds them to account. This issue of Alliance considers new directions for global health philanthropy and explores whether health funding is going where its most needed, and who gets to decide. The issue has been guest edited by Julia Greenberg, Director, Governance and Financing at the Open Society Foundations Public Health program, and Aggrey Aluso, Manager of Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa’s Health and Rights Program.

Highlights include:

Dr Charlie Weller, Head of Vaccines at the Wellcome Trust who considers philanthropy’s role in the search for a Covid vaccine drawing on lessons from Ebola

Ban Ki-moon Former UN Secretary General and vice chair of The Elders on the role of philanthropy in ensuring fair access to health care and universal health coverage

Children Investment Fund Foundation’s Linda Weisert sets out a new funding agenda for sexual and reproductive health and rights

Lawyer and advocate Steven Allen of the Validity Foundation makes the case for why human rights needs to be at the heart of mental health

The issue also includesprofiles of leading global health funders, an interview with outgoing European Foundation Centre CEO, Gerry Salole, looking back at his career in philanthropy, Regi’s answers to your dilemmas in ‘Philanthropy confidential’ and all our regular columns.

We’re particularly proud of this issue not least as we had to upend our plans to create it. We hope you find it a relevant and meaningful introduction to global health as you navigate your own philanthropic response to the times.