Collaborative Philanthropic Action: The Time Has Come

In a golden age for giving back to society, there has never been a greater need for a coordinated plan at every stage of the philanthropic journey.

Every day we are reminded of just how vulnerable individuals and whole societies have become within our damaged environment. Whether via social media or rolling broadcast news, our awareness of the global challenge represented by extreme weather events and social inaccessibility grows by the day. Our world has never seemed so fragile as it struggles to contend with mounting climate change and heightened social inequality.

Amid all this, Covid-19 has manifested a yet more visible and tangible understanding of these social and environmental issues. Most notably, the pandemic has amplified the importance of delivering relief to those parts of the world where the need is greatest but where vital resources are the hardest to come by.

It is all too easy to be daunted by the sheer scale of challenges many people are facing in disparate parts of the world. Increasingly, though, collaborative global action is coming to be seen as an effective partnership to address the needs of those who are marginalized.

Philanthropy as a Responsibility

In an era where social inequality is at its height, philanthropy has become a global and collective responsibility.

At the international level, businesses, families and individuals are showing their commitment to helping transform lives and communities. This, though, is not achieved through random acts of charity, but through intention and focus, as well as via expertly implemented strategic programs that dig deep into the root cause of many of these issues, ensuring purposeful outcomes and trackable improvements.

Acknowledging the significance of the growing donor capacity, Jean Sung, Executive Director and Head of The Philanthropy Centre at J.P. Morgan Private Bank for Asia Pacific, says, “As societies across the world have had to contend with an ever-escalating number of health and education issues, corporate, family and individual giving is playing an ever more important role in tackling these problems. We truly are in a golden era of philanthropy.”

The Importance of Collaboration, Evaluation and Precision

This golden era has been characterized by a new emphasis on collaboration, evaluation and precision targeting, as well as by a considerable increase in the level of available philanthropic capital. It has also seen an increase in the desire to give back and to make a positive and lasting impact, something that has become a core component of corporate strategies and a priority for many ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals.

In the U.S., philanthropists are no stranger to the headlines, with the likes of Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates and Jeff Bezos regularly feted by the media for the scope and scale of their commitment to good causes.

“As societies across the world have had to contend with an ever-escalating number of health and education issues, corporate, family and individual giving is playing an ever more important role in tackling these problems. We truly are in a golden era of philanthropy.”

– Jean Sung, Executive Director and Head of The Philanthropy Centre, J.P. Morgan Private Bank, Asia Pacific

These high-profile donors have succeeded in establishing philanthropy as a primary responsibility, rather than as a secondary option for many of the world’s wealthiest individuals and most profitable corporations. One initiative that clearly encapsulates this is the Giving Pledge, a program jointly launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet in 2010. 

Seen as revolutionary at the time, the scheme set out to inspire the wealthiest to donate at least half of their net worth to philanthropic causes. Within months of its launch, some 40 billionaires had taken the pledge. As of August 2021, there were 223 pledges from 27 countries.

Another key benefit of this highly public and largely transparent take on philanthropy has been the move towards greater collaboration. While, historically, many donors gave individually, contributing without any prior understanding of their peers’ initiatives, there is now an acceptance of the importance of collective and coordinated action.

The Asian Charitable Culture

In Asia, such giving tends to be more discreet, with many of the region’s wealthiest individuals favoring a lower profile.

Sharing Resources, Unifying Goals

The region also has its own charitable culture and unique structural characteristics. Most notably, Asian benefactors tend to have, traditionally, a distinct preference for contributing to their local communities and to addressing the specific needs of their home countries. Collaboration, though, is still very much at the heart of giving in Asia. This has seen a growing understanding that working in partnership with like-minded individuals and corporations will hugely enhance the effectiveness of philanthropic capital. Not only does such an approach minimize duplicate targeting, it also allows for shared resources, aligned goals and a more comprehensive evaluation of short- and long-term measures of success.

Such collaboration, especially among low-profile donors, requires coordination and this is where philanthropic advisory support can often be essential. Highlighting the need for such a service, Sung says, “Among the questions I’m most frequently asked by philanthropists are ‘How do I know what everybody else is doing?’ and ‘How do I know I’m not just replicating what someone else is already doing?’

“Fortunately, through our connectivity; knowledge and experience; industry contacts; and understanding of global and regional priorities, we can help our clients maximize their philanthropic impact. We can also help bridge the gap to align their passions and pursuits with other philanthropic entities and individuals that share their values and have compatible philanthropic priorities.”

Nurturing Social Commitment

With many Asian businesses now in their second or third generation of family ownership, philanthropy also tends to be a more personalized family matter than in corporations with a more varied stakeholder hierarchy. This makes the creation of an enduring and positive legacy an imperative for such families and their companies, as well as a matter of shared concern among its family members.

With nurturing social commitment now seen as key to instilling legacy values into emerging generations, education remains the number one priority for Asia’s philanthropists and accounts for a considerable proportion of all such spend. Historically, it has been well above the allocation for alleviating poverty, inaccessibility to healthcare and addressing climate change.

Addressing Immediate Needs

Evaluating the particular challenges of the region and highlighting the need for coordination, Sung says, “While we all agree that education is essential and is the key to financial and social independence for many of those currently living below the poverty line, there is also the problem of immediate need. For someone living below the poverty line, their next meal is more of a priority than their education.

“This is where The Philanthropy Centre at J.P. Morgan Private Bank can really help. We facilitate, introduce and ensure that donors can work in partnership with one another, coordinating contributions that can be complementary and help deliver programs and services that can respond with immediate and longer term solutions to the pressing social issues. This ensures no one falls through the net and outcomes are not undermined by factors outside the remit of any individual initiative.”

Philanthropic Veteran Jean Sung Talks About How To Make Philanthropy Truly Impactful

In many ways it is easy to understand why there is now such a widespread need for the portfolio of services offered by The Philanthropy Centre. Amid all the challenges facing the world—from climate change to social inequality of opportunity and emerging public health threats—we are also on the verge of the greatest transfer of wealth of all time. By 2030, some US$15 trillion will be inherited by the next generation—a generation of young entrepreneurs and businesspeople committed to both honoring the philanthropic legacy of their forebears and to championing their own causes.2

Explaining why there is now such a widespread need for a holistic and sophisticated understanding of how to effectively do good, Jean Sung, Executive Director and Head of The Philanthropy Centre at J.P. Morgan Private Bank for Asia Pacific, addresses the importance of tailored and holistic philanthropic planning.

Q: What differentiates The Philanthropy Centre at J.P. Morgan Private Bank?

Sung: We emphasize the importance of tailoring our advisory service to clients at different stages of their donor journey. For example, when working with first-time philanthropists, we focus on helping them to identify and articulate their passion, with a focus on understanding their primary giving interest and the social issues closest to their hearts. Often, we find ourselves helping build upon a framework passed onto them by their predecessors and coming up with a refined plan for outlining specific and measurable goals—whether geographic or time-specific—that address issues they are most passionate about. In addition, we also assist with deciding which vehicle should be adopted.

Q: How about those in the later stage of their philanthropic journey?

Sung: In the case of those who are more matured in their philanthropic journey, we may be more involved with succession planning or with conducting a mission audit, assessing the achievements to date and allowing for strategic readjustments to be implemented should they be required. At every level, we are there to ensure there is a defined and deliberate approach to each client’s philanthropic journey. We are also there to help and to assist families and/or individuals in formalizing and implementing their philanthropic goals.

Q: What is the one thing that is shared at all stages of a philanthropic journey?

Sung: Regardless of which philanthropic stage the donor client has reached, The Philanthropy Centre is also a firm advocate of the importance of networking. Given J.P. Morgan’s reach, depth and the breadth of its global, regional and local networks, access to the most influential and innovative private foundations is assured, as is social sector engagement with the most effective non-profit organizations active within a diverse range of communities and social issues.

Our philanthropy advisors can be the bridge that connects like-minded individuals and their families with each other so that when they collaborate, they can hear from each other; they can also stand by to offer each other’s global contacts and networks that can assist with [like] objectives; that can deepen impact. Collaboration can be meshed to deliver measurable solutions to social problems.

Q: Why are such networking opportunities important for philanthropy?

Sung: They are hugely beneficial as they are the key means for our clients to interact on an exclusive platform with other like-minded philanthropists. Often, they want to hear what others are doing and discover what has previously worked well, allowing them to hear and to learn from the success (and even failures) of others. These events also reflect the importance The Philanthropy Centre places on understanding the differing priorities and charitable cultures that coexist across Asia. This allows for tailored, informed and up-to-date advice to be provided with regards to optimized giving parameter across the region’s constituent jurisdictions.

Q: What is the essence of successful philanthropy?

Sung: I’m a firm believer that giving back is most effective when professionally managed. Philanthropy is multi-billion-dollar concern. It changes lives and shapes destinies at an
individual, regional, and global level. Given its scale and potential impact, families and corporations have also recognized the need for their philanthropic giving to be effectively managed; properly implemented and be fully evaluated and accounted for.

Philanthropy is not a new phenomenon—it has the power to nurture, to stir collaboration between the private, social and public sectors—developing successful models that can stimulate and advocate positive change.

When we can step up with philanthropy and help solve pressing challenges in our own backyards, in our communities, and in our common home—we can build vibrant and healthy societies that are fair and works for everyone—this is good business!

Philanthropy can truly be transformative. We pride ourselves on being the advisory partner for those looking to leave a legacy of caring values, those who genuinely want to make a difference and build back better. We realize and understand that every philanthropic journey needs to start somewhere and we are here to help and support donors through their own individual journey of transforming charitable giving into effective philanthropy. We, at J.P. Morgan, are so proud to work with our clients and their families to help explore options and develop strategies that would work well for them and ultimately deliver their philanthropic goals.

1. Source: Data as of August 2021.
2. Source: Data as of June 26, 2019.

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