Charles Dickens was a philanthropy advisor

My summer reading included Rhodri Davies’ fascinating new book ‘Public Good by Private Means: How Philanthropy Shapes Britain’. In it I was delighted to learn that Charles Dickens was a philanthropy advisor. In the late 19th century he advised Angela Burdett-Coutts on her giving and helped screen and select applications. As a philanthropy advisor myself, it was pleasing to find myself amongst such illustrious company.

So how has philanthropy advice developed since Dickens’s day? When setting up my consultancy business, the advice I was given fell into two main camps:

1.      People don’t value philanthropy advice and won’t pay for it;

2.      This is an under-developed market in the UK and likely to grow.

Obviously I am banking on 2. being correct. So it was interesting to read Cath Tilotson’s latest research into the philanthropy advice market in the UK for Philanthropy Impact (see link). The research found that only 1 in 5 professional advisory firms (accountants, tax advisers, wealth managers etc.) offered philanthropy advice and then it was patchy.  And Joanna Walker states in her white paper for Boncerto (see link): “the philanthropy advice sector has largely remained static over the last few years - when by now it should have fulfilled its enormous potential”.

There are a number of philanthropic advice specialists in the UK such as CAF, New Philanthropy Capital, Boncerto and I am aware of some sole traders and other small outfits like me. But this is nothing compared to the size of the industry in America where philanthropists can access 1,300 Chartered Advisors in Philanthropy alone. There is clearly much still to do to make the case for and grow philanthropy advice in the UK.

There is a real opportunity here – with gains not just for advisors but also for those they support since those wealthy individuals who do seek advice tend to give more.  

So whether a Dickens or not – do contact me if you are a Philanthropy Advisor. It would be great to discuss how we raise our profile together. And if you are one of the 4 out of 5 private client advisors who don’t yet offer philanthropy advice, please get in touch.


Learning to give: lessons for advisers and would-be philanthropists in Philanthropy Impact Magazine Issue 12: Special Edition June 2016

Growing philanthropy advice - Joanna Walker for Boncerto July 2016