David Gold

David Gold does not like labels. For instance, he resists being called a venture philanthropist, explaining: "We are a risk-taking funder, but what we do is applied common sense. It is important to try to balance the many social outcomes against a financial commitment." He worries that venture philanthropy may be creating a new language and new hurdles.

David Gold

Personal story

David first became involved with the voluntary sector as head of the London region for Business in the Community, after 15 years in the City at Phillips & Drew Fund Management, including three years on the Board. "I was impressed by the managerial strength of the voluntary sector. They are generally well and creatively run, and do incredible things with very little money and resources." After two years at BitC, where he was involved in three major campaigns, David was hooked. He left in 2000 and bought ProspectUs, a recruitment agency focused exclusively on voluntary organisations and other non-profits, with the mission to "bring more and better resources into the sector."

In addition to running ProspectUs, David also chairs the London arm of A Glimmer of Hope, an operating foundation started by his sister and brother-in-law, Donna and Philip Berber. Donna was inspired to "make a difference" in Ethiopia after attending the 1985 LiveAid concert in Wembley Stadium. The foundation invests in long-term development projects in Ethiopia, such as digging water wells and building schools and hospitals. While the founders provide both their money and their time, they rely on local representatives to choose and run the projects. "Africa is a land of fabulous opportunity," says David. "For $6 a person, you can supply clean water to a community. For the price of a studio apartment in Notting Hill, you can change lives in an entire district!"

"we are light on paper, high on engagement"

A Glimmer of Hope also supports community-led youth projects in London, where David and Donna grew up. They typically provide each project with £30,000 - £40,000 in funding over three years, more recently based on full-cost recovery, which includes proportionate overhead as well as project-specific costs. David emphasises that "we are light on paper, high on engagement". A Glimmer of Hope manager and trustee meet formally with the charity every six months, but the level of ongoing support is based on the needs of the charity. "We do not burden the charities with an intrusive application process or the collection of complicated outcomes data…in supporting the charities, we do things with them, not to them."

As a risk-taking funder, A Glimmer of Hope accepts that there will be some failures, but mitigates this risk by finding good people and then trusting them to do well. For example, the trust has had good experiences funding projects started by graduates of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, who have done a "super job." Yet, the ultimate indicator of success is, of course, sustainability - when the charity no longer needs A Glimmer of Hope's support.

Inspired by the projects he funds, David serves as trustee to StreetShine, a Glimmer of Hope-supported social enterprise that helps the homeless by providing them with steady work shining shoes around the City of London. He also is on the board of Futurebuilders, which provides government funding for public service delivery by the voluntary and community sector in England.

David advises those wishing to be more strategic in their charitable giving to "get personally involved - the combination of time and money is very powerful. Do not be judgmental; these organisations are very resource-constrained. You can have real impact if you marry what you know with a capacity to learn."

So is David Gold a venture philanthropist? Or perhaps an engaged philanthropist? That depends on how you define the terms; but as David would argue, labels do not matter - your commitment and passion, and the impact you have on others, do.

(from A Guide to Giving, 2nd edition, 2005)

This personal story is tagged under

  • Awards
  • Other
  • Causes
  • Overseas aid
  • International giving
  • Promoting philanthropy
  • Social investment
  • Venture philanthropy