Newsmaker: Teaching the rich to give - Salvatore LaSpada Chief executive, Institute for Philanthropy

Anita Pati

Running workshops that help the wealthy to donate their money effectively.

On Sunday, a cohort of 12 eager tycoons will pay £6,000 each to gather together and learn how to rid themselves of their filthy lucre.

The millionaires, all of them aspiring philanthropists, have signed up for Dr Salvatore LaSpada's philanthropy workshop, which is being run in Britain for the first time.

LaSpada, who has just been appointed chief executive of the Institute for Philanthropy, had managed the donor education programme at the Rockefeller Foundation in the US since 1997.

When he relocated to London to take charge of the institute, the Rockefeller Foundation agreed to let him take the programme with him, and even to support it through grants.

Now he wants to provoke a renewed debate about how philanthropy can be promoted in the UK.

"The workshop is a way to give high net worth individuals the skills, knowledge and networks they need to be more effective and strategic in their giving," he says.

The wealthy students are guided through a year-long programme of three modules. The first, in London, will involve visits to refugees, asylum seekers and charities to determine how they can best invest their "limited philanthropic capital to benefit the greatest number of people".

The second part of the course, starting in November, will take them to an African country to experience social problems first-hand. Finally, next February, the students will visit New York to pull together the strands of everything they've learned.

LaSpada describes the workshop as a seed to grow the institute's wider academic programme of research into the barriers and incentives to giving and developing philanthropic models. The institute, he says, has been "working quietly on non-sexy things". He now wants to tell the public and the potential philanthropists about the power of giving.

The notion of philanthropy is already deeply embedded in US culture. But LaSpada - or Sal, as he is known - sees the need for "donor education" all over the world. The son of Italian immigrants "of limited financial means", he himself felt the benefits of philanthropic largesse in childhood when it allowed him to pursue his education abroad. Because of this, he says, he felt a calling at an early age to help harness wealth to create opportunities for others.

He thinks the UK will lead the philanthropic movement in Europe. "I'm drawn to the UK model - one in which government plays an important role in the provision of social services while trying to stimulate involvement by charities," he says.

The institute is in the process of gathering data and case studies from inspirational individuals and companies to identify leaders of giving.

Small and medium-sized enterprises, he says, are displaying innovative ways of giving. The information will then be passed on to inspire leaders to motivate others: giving, according to LaSpada, begets more giving.

"It's a virtuous cycle," he adds. "If you give, you derive a sense of satisfaction from contributing to society and you'll be inspired to give more. And when you give more, you're creating a larger capital base for the organisations that are doing this work."

Such is LaSpada's zeal for the P-word that he eschews the C-word. "I don't use the term 'charity sector'," he says. "I use 'the innovation sector'.

"Charity for me is a Victorian word that does not describe what we do.

In my experience, it's often the community-based organisations that bring forward the most interesting ideas to solve local problems." With a little help from the new philanthropists.

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