Early Interventions: An Economic Approach to Charitable Giving

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Emma Turner, Head of Philanthropy at Barclays Wealth, and Dan Corry, Chief Executive of New Philanthropy Capital, discuss the report’s findings.

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 Introduction

At present, charitable funding is often allocated according to personal beliefs and emotional connections. Money does not always go to the biggest problems, nor is it spent on the most effective solutions.

This report takes an innovative approach to charitable giving. It asks: what should charitable funders do if they are attempting to tackle problems that have a high cost to society and the economy? Which interventions are most effective? And what can funders do if they want to create economic benefits for individuals and society?

The report attempts to analyse social issues and interventions according to their potential for improving 'economic well-being'. By this, we mean that we prioritise interventions that can prevent problems that are costly to society, and improve people's earning potential.

It is important to recognise from the outset that most charitable work does not have to improve economic well-being. However, there is often a strong correlation between improving lives and creating economic benefit. This report applies this principle more widely: it analyses the costs of different social problems and highlights where opportunities lie for maximising economic benefit.

Private funders are increasingly interested in how analysis might be able to inform their giving, and reduce the costs of social problems at a time when funding is stretched. This report begins to explore such a possibility.

 Methodology

New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) conducted research for this report between February and June 2011. We surveyed experts to determine the research priorities, and reviewed published economic data to explore the costs of different social issues. We then conducted more detailed analysis on a subset of issues by reviewing further literature and interviewing over 30 experts. A Steering Group with representatives from government, research institutes, charities and funders provided valuable help in guiding our research.