Northern Ireland’s wealthy have been urged to continue to give more to charitable causes to counter the effects of the economic crisis.
Giving Northern Ireland, a new umbrella organisation launched at Stormont to champion philanthropy, is calling for a more strategic approach to providing support for those in need.
With financial difficulties and Government cuts spelling an end to many charities, Giving Northern Ireland aims to provide leadership in Northern Ireland to ignite a culture of giving.
Gary Mills, Chairman of Giving Northern Ireland, which is being co-funded by Lloyds TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland and The Atlantic Philanthropies, said the aim of the new organisation is to draw attention to all philanthropic activities in Northern Ireland and encourage more people to become involved in strategic giving.
He said: “We need to demystify the word ‘philanthropy’ and make it more accessible to the population at large. We also want to attract more of the wealthy in Northern Ireland to become more strategic in their giving and to be more responsive to those who need it most. We also want to highlight that Philanthropy is not just about giving money, it also involves people contributing their time and expertise.
“With the current economic recession putting more and more pressure on the Voluntary and Community Sector and charitable organisations going to the wall, there is no better time to be giving. Northern Ireland is attracting much less international funding with the result that people are suffering and help is needed more than ever. “
Guest speaker at the launch was Ellen Remmer of The Philanthropic Initiative, USA, who runs her own family foundation but is also dedicated to steering others on their philanthropic journey.
She said: “I am very excited to participate in the launch of Giving Northern Ireland and believe it can play a pivotal role growing philanthropy in the years to come. Based on my visit three years ago and what I have seen work in the States, it seems like there are some easy wins such as supporting skill-building of fundraisers; changing the expectations of non-profit board members, and working with professional advisors. “
Giving Northern Ireland was launched in the same week as the province’s first Philanthropy Fortnight, which sees a range of events taking place involving some of Northern Ireland’s key business leaders, wealthy individuals, professional bodies and voluntary organisations.
The organisation also launched its website www.givingnorthernireland.org which provides detailed information about Philanthropy Fortnight as well as the latest research in the field of philanthropy.
Giving Northern Ireland has commissioned a research report ‘Giving By High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) in Northern Ireland’, which was unveiled at the launch. The report found that while there is a relatively small pool of HNWIs in Northern Ireland, many are involved in active giving.
The report found that most prefer to keep their giving private and identifies this culture of private philanthropy as a barrier to giving in Northern Ireland. It also refers to a need for role models or champions to talk publicly about their experience of giving.
The new organisation will seek to raise the profile of philanthropy and raise awareness of the issue by spreading the message that giving is critical, particularly in times of economic and financial struggle.
It will offer a range of services including skills training for wealth advisors and fund-raisers and peer networking opportunities for high net worth individuals to share experiences. The focus is on strategic giving and how to make the most of time and donations.
It will also provide training and mentoring opportunities for the next generation of philanthropists, the children of today’s high earners to help them on their philanthropic journey.
During Philanthropy Fortnight, which is being supported by ten organisations, there are 13 diverse events featuring work with schoolchildren, arts organisations, corporate bodies, professional advisors and women’s groups.
Northern Ireland’s first Philanthropy Week in 2011 was born out of a trip to the US by seven organisations from Northern Ireland and seven from the Irish Republic at the invitation of the US Consulate.
They were required to bring back a guest speaker from the States and the Northern group decided to have a week to highlight the issue of giving.
Mr Mills added: “Giving Northern Ireland has grown out of all of this groundwork and it is very pleasing that the first Philanthropy week two years ago has mushroomed into a packed fortnight of events.”
The Giving Northern Ireland office is in Brunswick Street Belfast. Anyone wishing to contact the organisation should phone 028 9032 8099 or email firstname.lastname@example.org