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Government should make giving more tax-efficient, says Prime Minister's CSR adviser

Philip Green tells conference the UK should follow the US lead by making donating to charity more attractive

Philip Green
Philip Green

The Prime Minister’s adviser on corporate social responsibility has called on the government to make giving more tax-efficient.

Speaking at a conference called New Ways of Raising Money from the Rich in London yesterday, Philip Green, who chairs Prince Harry’s charity Sentebale and the Bible Society, advised charities to make "well-researched, targeted proposals to the right companies or individuals".

"The money is there, but there is a new language," he told delegates to the conference, organised by the not-for-profit consultancy Action Planning. "There is some more the government can do to make it more conducive to give. I think the government could do more to make giving more tax-efficient, like in the US."

Green, who was chief executive of the water company United Utilities from 2006 to 2011, before he became Prime Minister David Cameron’s adviser on CSR, said personal values were a key driver of philanthropy.

"Philanthropy is more supported politically and there has been some cultural shift – it is more the thing to do than it used to be," he said.

Green said geography and the causes were often important to high net worth givers, as well as the ability to demonstrate a charity’s performance and transparency. He said that corporations were looking for charities related to their business. "Understanding what the corporate does and tying into that is important," he said.

United Utilities invested £15m in a heathland project in northern England because it was relevant to the company and brought business and environmental benefits, Green told delegates.

Sir John Madejski, the chair of Reading Football Club and benefactor to the arts and education, also spoke about the importance of understanding potential donors. "The biggest thing I can share is the importance of empathy," he said. "Make sure you’ve done your homework; find out what makes them tick and what their interests are.

"I was motivated by all sorts of things. The best thing I did was to set up an inner-city academy, because I can see the results before my eyes. Before I started the academy, the area was one of the worst in my neighbourhood. Now these young people have become quite inspiring and are going to university. I feel very grateful that I’ve had the privilege of helping them.

"It is important that you let people know how their money is working. People like to know why they are giving and how it is making a difference."

Madejski said he was concerned about the size of some charities. "They are top-heavy, sometimes – enormous organisations," he said. "I find that a bit of a worry and wonder how much is going through to the cause."

Sir Keith Mills, who was deputy chair of Locog, the organising body for the London Olympics, chair of the global sporting charity the International Inspiration Foundation and founder of Sported, a sports charity for young people, also spoke at the conference.

"Most wealthy people are very generous," he said. "They find it very satisfying to help organisations and find it very intellectually interesting and exciting.

"You have to engage us on a one-to-one basis – be relevant, don’t just rattle the tin."

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