If Not Now, When? BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index


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If Not Now, When?

2014 BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index: Measuring the Commitment to Giving Around the World

by Kasia Moreno


For the second year in a row, BNP Paribas Wealth Management has undertaken to measure the commitment of individual philanthropists in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and, for the first time this year, the United States of America (USA). The Index is geared toward the measurement of replicable, sustainable and efficient philanthropy. In the highest-scoring regions, not only do the individuals give the most, but they also approach philanthropy in an innovative way and actively promote their causes.  For a maximum score of 100, a respondent would have to get the highest marks in three categories: Giving (Current and Projected), Innovation and Promotion.

The 2014 Index reveals that the United States, Europe and Asia are roughly halfway to a philanthropic ideal; the Middle East seems to be about a third of the way there, a score that is adversely affected by lower points on promotion, but may not fully acknowledge the strong cultural heritage of philanthropy in the region.  Out of the highest possible total score of 100, the USA scores 53.2, Europe 46.3, Asia 42.4 and the Middle East 29.4. 

The data for the Index is derived from a survey of 414 individuals—divided equally among the four regions and with at least $5 million in investable assets—conducted by Forbes Insights between October and December 2013.

Interpreting the Index results with a “glass half full” mindset, one could argue that, according to the methodology, Europe, Asia and the Middle East have been catching up with the USA,  which tends to be viewed as a leader in philanthropy worldwide. The USA is the source of the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

Interpreting these results with a “glass half empty” mindset, one could argue that all regions in the world still have a long way to go in terms of philanthropy, as even the leader in the Index ranking is still just a little past the halfway mark.

The Index is accompanied by a report focused on the most popular causes, urgency of need in the world and timing of the philanthropic journey, which highlights the approaches of the world’s philanthropists as well as their personal stories.

Among the top causes in the world, respondents from Europe, Asia and the Middle East cite the environment, whereas health is the predominant cause for the USA. The USA and the Middle East stand out among other regions, because in both regions social change/diversity is perceived to be among the top three most urgent causes in the world.

Europe, on the other hand, is unique in that among the top three most urgent regional causes, European philanthropists point to preserving cultural and national heritage. This should not come as a surprise, considering that Europe has so many of the world’s historical sites. Diego Della Valle, chief executive of Italian leather company Tod’s, has pledged $33 million to fund renovations at Rome’s crumbling Colosseum.

“In Italy, the culture issue is very urgent. Over 50% of the world’s cultural heritage is in our country, but more often than not it’s left to decay. Besides being an important economic resource, we have the duty to protect this heritage for everyone,” Della Valle told Forbes Insights.  

The need for philanthropy is extremely urgent, according to more than half of the respondents to the survey. Interestingly, philanthropists from two seemingly disparate regions, the USA and the Middle East, are outliers. Many more, 64% in the USA and 61% in the Middle East, consider the situation in the world in urgent need of philanthropy than do respondents from Europe and Asia.

Respondents from the USA and the Middle East walk in tandem again as they believe that the need for philanthropy is more urgent in their own country than in the world overall. Both European and Asian respondents see the need for philanthropy in their countries as less urgent than in the world.

Americans’ local bent is not caused solely by income disparity and the pulling back of government funding. One of the reasons the Americans see more urgency inside the USA is because some are still much less focused on world affairs than citizens of other countries, according to Melissa Berman, chief executive of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Interviews with philanthropists from around the world revealed how they think about the urgency of their giving. They go beyond the immediate urgency of, for example, supplying help to victims of natural disasters and delve into the deeper urgencies of philanthropy in the context of societies and economies.

Laurence Lien, the chairman of the Lien Foundation and the Community Foundation of Singapore, has a philosophical, systemic view on the issue of urgency for philanthropy in Singapore. “Philanthropy is not about the money,” he says. “It’s about developing a civil society where people connect with those who are left behind.”

Summing up the urgency issue, philanthropist Charlotte Dauphin, daughter of Claude Dauphin, chairman and CEO of Netherlands headquartered commodities trading form Trafigura Beheer BV, says: “The reason for urgency has always been there. The longer we wait to address these issues, the harder the job becomes.” 

The report analyzes how philanthropists feel about the four stages of the philanthropic journey: motivation, state of wealth, legal environment and results.  In terms of motivation, personal experience with the area of focus and religious faith are important motivations in most regions. 

State of wealth depends on the economic environment, but also on an individual’s relative view of his/her wealth, which varies by geography. Nathalie Sauvanet, Head of Individual Philanthropy, BNP Paribas Wealth Management, says that “Americans often start feeling comfortable about their level of wealth quite early and begin to start thinking about giving around the time they make their first million. Europeans, on the other hand, do not start feeling secure until they amass much larger fortunes.” The BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index shows that respondents from the Middle East and Asia are feeling most positive about their wealth levels.

Although philanthropists Forbes Insights spoke with consider charity their moral obligation, the legal climate, such as fiscal policies and regulations, also can affect giving. The Index shows that the lowest number of respondents from Asia are inclined to increase their giving due to the available legal and financial structures, with the USA and Europe in the middle and the highest number of respondents from the Middle East saying that current policies promote giving. 

A philanthropic journey ends once its goal has been achieved—an orphan given a home, a poor student granted funds for education, a disease eradicated, a social wrong righted. Some of these goals take longer to achieve than others. Some are, in fact, forever a work in progress. Thus, the apparent patience of philanthropists revealed in the Index survey, showing that the biggest number of respondents from the Middle East are willing to wait longest, while Asians are more short-term oriented, may, in fact, better illustrate the type of charity they undertake, rather than the level of patience.

Italian philanthropist Carlo De Benedetti may put it best when he says: “I am not interested in how fast but how effective the initiative is.”

This article is tagged under:

  • Family philanthropy
  • History of philanthropy
  • Government, legal and tax issues
  • International giving
  • Inspirational donations
  • Philanthropy Advice
  • Philanthropy stats & trends
  • Understanding philanthropy