What does our expert say? What is philanthropy?

Our expert Dr. Martina Gaus-Keller explains what philanthropy is and how you can use your wealth to help others.

Philanthropy: A simple way to do good with your money.

You’ve probably come across the term "philanthropy" more than once. Yet I still notice when speaking to female clients that many of them are unclear as to what it means. Unfortunately, this is often the first reason why many women do not engage with it. Put simply, philanthropy refers to initiatives or acts with a charitable purpose.

The term can of course refer to several things: from proactive acts of goodwill to general voluntary work, making donations or supporting social movements, be it financially or otherwise. Philanthropy is not necessarily connected to religious or political motives, but is always a result of personal values.

How can I use my wealth to help others?

Like the meanings of the term, the range of possibilities offered by philanthropy is vast. The simplest way you can use your wealth for a good cause is to make a donation to a charitable organization. You can also provide financial support directly to those in need. For example, you might fund academic scholarships or become a patron of sports or the arts. In this case, I would recommend seeking expert advice. Of course, you are also free to discuss this matter with me or other UBS experts.

How can you make sure that your act of philanthropy achieves the intended result?

This is a question we often receive from female donors. Your values and goals take center stage. What is most important to you? What do you hope to achieve with your donation? It’s also important that you have a certain understanding of how your goals can be achieved effectively.

Your values and goals take center stage

Allow me to explain this with an example. Some of our clients care about protecting our oceans, and so they use their wealth to contribute to ocean clean-ups. Other clients also acknowledge this problem, but view ocean clean-ups as treating the symptoms, not the cause. They prefer to support organizations that combat global warming.

Another matter important to many of our female clients is equality of opportunity in education for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. There are a tremendous number of organizations and projects committed to this goal and to which money can be donated. However, the actual impact of their work varies considerably; While some projects spend the majority of funds on constructing school buildings, others invest in pedagogical schemes and further teacher training. They then achieve their goal quicker and more cost-effectively, namely, that children attain measurably better results in school.

The key features of a successful long-term commitment

The most successful philanthropists, in my view, are not those with a clear vision of what they want to change for the better, but those who have made the effort to understand the context of the problem. Understanding the issue allows you as a donor to compare the approaches of various organizations and to support the projects that you trust to achieve the most with the money you donate.

A solid understanding of the issue will also allow you to keep risks to a minimum. After all, when it comes to money, nothing is risk-free and philanthropy is no exception. Sadly, we have witnessed charitable projects that started with good intentions, but which were ineffective or sometimes even counter-productive. For example, one such project distributed malaria nets treated with insecticide, considered to be an effective and inexpensive form of intervention. Unfortunately these were used as fishing nets – with drastic implications for both the fish population and the quality of drinking water.

In order to avoid such scenarios, for more than 20 years the UBS Philanthropy Team has helped our clients locate effective, trustworthy projects both in Switzerland and abroad. We ensure that 100% of donations are used for their intended purpose and offer clients the opportunity to reach smaller, innovative organizations directly.

The UBS Philanthropy Team is happy to help you with any questions and to provide consultation sessions about charitable donations and long-term philanthropic commitments, such as founding a trust.

Dr. Martina Gaus-Keller, Manager of Philanthropy Services Switzerland for UBS

Martina Gaus helps philanthropists both in Switzerland and abroad find innovative, high-quality projects that offer effective, scalable solutions aimed at tackling some of the greatest challenges of our time (education, health, child protection and climate change). The team works alongside traditional philanthropic projects as well as in the social finance sector. She was previously Director of Program Strategy & Performance at the UBS Optimus Foundation, where her focus was on impact analysis.

You can reach the UBS Philanthropy Team at: sh-ubs-optimus-foundation@ubs.com

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