If you're spreading yourself too thin, it can actually become quite disengaging and not exciting. Any intended impact will be minimized. Focus on a few things that you really care about.
This profile is a part of our “Philanthropists in Action” case study series, which looks at emerging trends in the philanthropy landscape, as the ESG agenda, and creating social impact climb the priority list of Family Offices and ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) around the world.
C. Hoare & Co. is the UK’s oldest private bank, founded in 1672 and still family owned, with a long history of philanthropic practices across its 11 generations. This culminated in the formal appointment of a Head of Philanthropy in 2018, an appointment bestowed upon Rennie Hoare one of the bank’s youngest partners. Rennie had enthusiastically advocated for the need for such a role, to provide greater structure and focus to the philanthropic activity of the family and the bank in order to increase the impact it could have on the communities it served, and strengthen the involvement of its customers on this mission.
The Hoare family and the bank already had a strong foundation in giving, directing 10% of the bank’s profits on an annual basis to the Golden Bottle Trust, a foundation established in 1985 to further the family’s philanthropic work
The Golden Bottle Trust operates quite differently from other family foundations, reflecting perhaps the size of the family behind it and its unique relationship with the bank.
Family members with a deeper involvement in the Golden Bottle Trust have a discretionary pot that they can allocate to charities they know well, without first having to go through the committee process. For example, when the COVID-19 crisis hit, this allowed family members to react and support charities responding to the situation in a timely way.
Creating new ways to engage the extended Hoare family in giving programs has also been a successful approach to maximizing the impact of the Trust. “There are 2,400 direct living descendants of the bank’s founders,” explains Rennie, “and they too can apply for a grant of up to £5,000 to give to a charity in which they are closely involved. In addition, a Family Forum has been established through which decisions are made on how to allocate funds to a selection of trusted partner charities. These partnerships and networks facilitate the possibility of unrestricted grant making, allowing for the most impactful work to be achieved.
“We make some 300 grants each year in this way,” says Rennie, “and while they may not always be large, they do embed us in the charity sector.
“At a more strategic level, we carve out a third of each year’s grant-giving to go to just 10 charities via our large donations panel. We look to find charity partners we can trust, we get to know them, and then provide unrestricted grants. We do not want to tie them in knots with lots of reporting and gating; we want them to get on and do things.”
That is not to say, however, that reporting isn’t important. It is something, says Rennie, that is approached in a slightly different way.
The Trust also employs some creative strategies to help engage bank employees in philanthropic programs and opportunities to give, including through employee-matching programs.
“We operate a give-as-you-earn scheme for our bank staff, where the Golden Bottle Trust contributes two pounds for every pound given by staff. It’s an amazing maximizer, with over £280,000 given by staff last year.”
Uniting a community
As part of his efforts, Rennie established a community of giving amongst C. Hoare and Co. extending beyond customers to wider stakeholders, creating a forum for like-minded customers to meet, showcase charities and
their work, while learning from each other’s successful, and sometimes less successful, philanthropic endeavors. This was also a source of ideas and inspiration for Rennie as he continued to expand on the organization’s direct philanthropic efforts.
“There has always been a passion for philanthropy and the charity ecosystem,” explains Rennie, “and particularly on improving the way charities operate, and I approach my role from that perspective. I am passionate about improving the way things flow.”
In 2011, C. Hoare and Co. would become the first UK bank to create a donor-advised fund, now with over £220m in assets, representing 10% of the UK donor-advised fund market.
In 2016, the Golden Bottle Trust launched its first social impact investment fund, Snowball, with the aim to change the way the charity investment market operates.
“We are trying to establish a strong sense of accountability in where funds go; there is a risk with charitable trusts, that if you are grant-making and holding a sizeable investment portfolio invested in companies that are causing damage to society at a greater rate than the good you are doing, well, that is untenable.
Snowball is much more about harmonizing grantmaking and investments. We espouse the view of what we call total portfolio impact, where both grants and investments are set out to do intentional good.”
To support this, the Trust made a decision in recent years to ensure that 100% of activity invested goes towards social impact investments.
“For us, it’s crucial that we understand the impact of all the things we are doing through the charitable trust.”
Snowball’s mission is not insubstantial, with the bank looking to make the fund available to a wide range of individual investors.
I see philanthropic assets or philanthropic capital as catalytic risk-taking capsule … batched up with the sustainable development goals [it] can play an amazingly powerful role in forming partnerships with philanthropic capital, private capital and public resources.
“We want to see Snowball replicated by other fund management firms and think about what the next wave of capitalism should look like, where financial, environmental and social returns are considered,” says Rennie.
Advice for other philanthropists
Rennie recognizes that it can be daunting for those starting on a philanthropic journey, often looking impenetrable to the outsider. That can disengage individuals from taking the first step.
“Philanthropists are, naturally, very generous with their time, so if this is something you wish to explore, talk to friends, your advisers and your network. People will want to share, support and encourage best practice.”
He emphasizes the importance of focusing on areas of passion, rather than on trying to support every support-worthy organization.
“Focus on what you really care about. That may sound trite, but there are over 168,000 charities in the UK and if you spread yourself too thin it can become quite disengaging. Your impact will be minimized.”
About Golden Bottle Trust
The Golden Bottle Trust was established by the partners of Hoare & Co in 1985. Since then, it has supported the philanthropic commitments and principles of the Hoare family.
Each year, the partners donate up to 10% of the bank’s profits to the Golden Bottle Trust: the money is used both to support charities in that annual cycle, and to create a reserve to support future giving. 100% of this reserve is invested into social impact investments.
The Golden Bottle Trust also supports staff participating in the bank's Give As You Earn (GAYE) scheme by double-matching their charitable donations. At present, more than 40% of our staff participate in the GAYE scheme. This is one of many ways in which Hoare & Co look to fulfil the bank’s purpose as ‘good bankers and good citizens’.