Since 2011, I.G. Advisors has supported a wide range of individuals and organisations on their social impact journeys. Carlos is the Founder and CEO of I.G. Advisors and has worked with a wide variety of philanthropists, foundations, companies, charities and social enterprises.
Interviewed by Prospectus CEO, David Gold, Carlos answers a range of questions covering data and impact, relationships between funders and organisations, and the value and perception of fundraising – as well as what I.G. Advisors learned from Star Wars.
Data and impact have become very important in the sector. What role does proportionality play in collecting and reporting on success?
Impact measurement is important and as a donor you should see return on their investment. Your expectations should reflect the size of your donation. If you are donating £5,000 you should be happy with receiving a more off the shelve report – if you are donating £5,000,000 you may well expect a more in-depth impact report!
What I have noticed is that some smaller donors, and those newer to philanthropy, are expecting to see a lot of data and impact measurement that is out of proportion to the size of their donation. We work with individuals and organisations to build relationships with organisations they fund – you should know and trust who you are funding and let them explain what they do. The donor should be taken on a journey to understand the project and impact.
A great example of monitoring and evaluation at its worst is a story I head from a donor visiting a charity in Kenya. The donor went to visit a small office based in a slum, and met two people in the office they didn’t know and asked who they were. It transpired that each year, this small organisation had to spend a significant amount of money to hire two consultants to report the same information in two completely different formats for DFID and USAID!
DG – That’s a great example of M&E at its worst but organisations like DFID and USAID are audited rigorously! Does the power dynamic between the donor and the recipient encourage the donor to act inappropriately? Should it be about participating not giving?
Those big players have their own exacting stakeholders to deal with. The point is merely that a funding relationship should be just that – a relationship, and it works both ways. Organisations are the ones delivering the change, not donors along, so donors just need to recognise that.
Price and value have gone up but we still talk about sums of money in the same way e.g. give £2 a week to save a life. Why hasn’t there been inflation in the psychology of the quantum of giving?
Fundraising has become a professional space in the last 15-20 years or so however there are many organisations, of a significant size, that have never made an ask for a £10,000 donation. There is often no organisational history which makes it difficult to understand how to make an ask for larger sums.
We do a lot of work helping organisations prepare to and eventually ask for major gifts, so it is happening and there are lots of people out there willing to give more. But it’s a long-term process that organisations need to be invested in, knowing they might not see returns for a year or more.
Please give an example of a great relationship between a funder and a funded organisation?
A good example is the relationship between the Mohamed S. Farsi Foundation and UCLA in establishing a new flagship programme for Arab women filmmakers to achieve greater representation in the film industry.
The Mohamed S. Farsi Foundation knew there was a change they wanted to make in the world and they wanted to find the best way to achieve that change. UCLA bent over backwards but at the same time were really clear about what they would and wouldn’t do.
It was a meeting of minds and equals, and the two organisations came together in a great way to create this programme. I.G provided the parameters and framework and we workshopped this for over a year and a half. It was an absolute joy to work on and see it evolve from the initial concept to its amazing launch at Cannes Film Festival this year.
DG – in three years what will success look like for this programme?
Greater diversity in the filmmaking industry for women, and Arab women in particular. The programme is all about supporting some already great filmmakers and giving them a platform, the connections and resources to fulfil their potential.
How do you apply your experience and knowledge on funding and fundraising for social enterprises?
The line between social enterprises and entrepreneurial charities is blurry at best. You can apply the same concepts to both – it’s really about diversifying your funding source to be more sustainable, and to figure out who you should be targeting.
Now more than ever there is a new generation of philanthropists and wealthy people who are self made, took risks in their personal lives and finances and who understand the importance of sustainability. The concept of social enterprises resonates with these people and, framed in the right way, can be attractive to donors.
Fundraising always seems to be criticised in the media and there is the inevitable link to public perception. What’s your view on this subject?
One of the issues that really troubles me is the unfair and one-sided approach that many take to pay. Many organisations are complex and you should hire the best people. To be effective in anything, including fundraising, you need to be able to pay a good salary and attract the most talented people. Imagine what the word would be like if social-good organisations paid the same salaries as banks!
If a charity CEO or Executive has a salary of £150,000 the first questions you should ask are: what is the turnover of the organisation? How complex are its operations? When you start looking at the scale, effectiveness and complexity, more often than not it looks like you are getting a bargain for £150,000!
DG – if you looked at the ROI for fundraisers versus private equity 9 times out of 10 it is going to blow them out of the water!
I have never had one donor come back and say a CEO or Executive earns too much – they know the CEO and management team, they trust them and understand what they do and what they are worth.
We noted that you failed to convince your wife to name your twins Luke and Leia; what learning from Star Wars would you like to bring to the work of I.G Advisors?
I have never been asked that question before – but I am a big Star Wars fan! If you look at the story behind Star Wars it is about a farm boy taking on and defeating the big bad Galactic Empire. The story is that one person can change the world (or universe!). There is a universality to that message, and in my work I am lucky enough to be surrounded by “Luke Skywalkers” - individuals who do dream big, and are taking on massive challenges to make a positive change.
DG – Thanks for your time and thoughts Carlos, and for helping fundraising padawans become Jedi knights!