By Jonathan Duffy
BBC News Magazine
Body Shop founder Anita Roddick says she plans to give away her entire £51m fortune to good causes. But there's nothing straightforward about philanthropy these days.
Montgomery Brewster, the character played by the recently deceased Richard Pryor in Brewster's Millions, hardly ranks as one of Hollywood's all-time classic comedy creations. But the dilemma in which he found himself perhaps resonates ever more these days.
Brewster, a hapless small-time baseball player, had to get rid of $30m in 30 days, in order to avail himself of a $300m inheritance. Yet so luckless is this sorry protagonist that he can't even waste money competently. It just earns him more.
By contrast, Anita Roddick, one of the UK's best-known entrepreneurs, could never be described as incompetent. Yet the 63-year-old tycoon faces a similarly unusual predicament in the years to come.
For Dame Anita, founder of the Body Shop, is planning to give away her entire £51m fortune.
Greenpeace has already benefited
"I don't want to die rich," she told the Daily Telegraph. "Money does not mean anything to me."
Rather than throw her cash at seemingly fruitless investments, as Monty Brewster did, she wants to give it all to worthy causes.
Listen to anyone in the philanthropy sector, and they'll tell you that this is harder than it sounds.
Giving away a fortune effectively is almost more difficult than it is to make the money in the first place, says Theresa Lloyd, author of Why Rich People Give.
Philanthropy has broad appeal in the UK, with almost 60% of people giving to charity at least once a month, according to a new report by the Charities Aid Foundation.
At the very top end, among the super rich, a mini-industry has grown up in recent years advising benefactors how best to part with their wealth.
With some 180,000 charities in the UK alone, the sheer number of worthy causes can be mesmerising.
As head of strategic philanthropy for Coutts & Co bank, Mark Evans says clients are increasingly coming up against a checklist of familiar questions.
"We're finding people are saying they don't necessarily want to give everything to their children, which was the case historically.
"They don't want to give it to the government since they've had a big enough slice through tax. So they're left with charity. They could leave it all in their will, but where's the fun in that? And that's where Coutts comes in, to help them create personal giving strategies."
The "fun factor" is an important consideration among today's Giving Elite, says Ms Lloyd.
"Any intelligent charity will ensure that giving is a buzz," she says. Keeping benefactors abreast of developments, putting them in touch with beneficiaries, providing access to fundraising events - all are examples of how givers can expect a reward for their generosity.
But the watchword in the slick new philanthropist sector is "impact". Impact, according to A Guide to Giving, which advises wannabe philanthropists, is "the social return on your investment in a disadvantaged community; a park preserved; a patient cured; a diploma earned. In short, tangible evidence of money well-spent."
The guide sets out a list of check boxes to steer donors through the maze of considerations: what are their personal objectives; how much money do they have; what causes do they want to benefit - social, cultural, environmental etc; what are the mechanics of giving, and so on.
Giving it away
There is also room for some cold hard business sense. Giving, if it's done correctly, can be financially rewarding, with tax breaks for donors and beneficiaries.
Perhaps the world's best known philanthropist is also the world's richest man - Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Much of his good work is done through his charitable foundation.
Bill Gates has made multi-million dollar donations to malaria research
The trend for foundations, or trusts, is growing, says Ms Lloyd, who interviewed 100 philanthropists for her book, 50 of which had family trusts. Dame Anita has herself expressed a wish to start a foundation before she dies.
"With a trust you are making a long-term commitment to charity," says Ms Lloyd. "You are also involving your children who can become trustees at 18, and so it's about starting a family legacy."
One organisation spearheading this new approach is New Philanthropy Capital, which investigates charitable sectors and advises clients which of the lesser-known, or "non-brand name", charities can meet their expectations.
"Wealthy people are often too busy to investigate but they want to apply some rigour to their giving," says NPC's Maya Prabhu.
In two years, it has advised donors to the tune of £20m. "We don't do the high end of the arts or animal charities because we think they can look after themselves."
Given that Dame Anita's charitable priorities are the environment and human rights, she might do well to consult such an organisation on how best to benefit these causes.