Philanthropy, or giving, is a fundamental aspect of human nature – from buying a copy of the Big Issue to making a donation of multiple millions.
It makes you a part of society rather than separate and defending yourself from it. If we don’t give we shut ourselves out.
I’ve had, and still have, a roller coaster of a professional life… but, overall, the ride has always been thrilling and has taken me to great destinations beyond my expectations. I’ve never been bored. I’m still often thought of as a co-founder of the branding agency Wolff Olins, but that was a long time ago. Today, I no longer lead design companies. I prefer to work like a film producer with a network of chosen professionals as Michael Wolff and Company. I work in Russia, the US and, more recently in Peru. I’m also a visiting professor at Central St Martins (University of the Arts London) and at The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (South Africa), as well as being Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art, a member of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry and ‘Inclusive Design Champion’ for the UK government. So I’m busy.
The skills I bring to More
My role as a creative advisor is to enlighten my clients to the power of better, more thorough and coherent self-expression. Usually this embraces collaborating with my clients on clarifying why their businesses exist and helping them to bring to their ideas to life. In so doing, I can raise the horizon for many people who’ve become too focused on the typical short-term pressures of business.
Fundraising organisations in particular have much to gain from better self-expression. I used to be on the board of The Hunger Project and as we spoke about our work to an audience I could see the amount of money people were willing to give toward ending hunger going up or down in their eyes. Of course, the size of their gifts reflected their personal circumstances but it also depended on how much we succeeded in touching their hearts with our words.
Other organisations I work with
Why I work with More
It was originally through my friendship with Ian Edwards that I got involved with More Partnership. But then, it became clearer to me that there’s an intrinsic connection between friendship and fundraising. A gift brings both giver and receiver closer to each other. There’s something intimate about discussing why you want to share your money and so why you would choose to give some of it away. In that respect fundraising is a particularly interesting business – which is one of the reasons I’m still involved with More.
My philanthropic interests
I give what I can to people who ask me. It may not always be much. But, for example, every year I feel great giving lunch to 20 homeless people through Crisis at Christmas and I can’t resist playing a very modest part in responding with my money to the many calamities in our world today. I’m usually delighted to have a doorway presented to me through which to provide value. And so, I believe, are most other human beings.
My advice to fundraisers
Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. ‘No’ often means ‘not now’. So keep on asking, and, if possible, stop operating within a ‘paradigm of scarcity’ and move into one of abundance. There’s more than enough money in our world to end all poverty and deprivation.
Spending money on what may seem irrelevant is often frowned on in many businesses, but if you can make a difference to others, receive more satisfaction in doing so, enjoy more self-expression and feel more human warmth by giving more away, why wouldn’t you?