Erin Segilia-Chase, new Director of Philanthropy at Impetus-PEF
Erin Segilia-Chase, 43, the new Director of Philanthropy at Impetus – The Private Equity Foundation (Impetus-PEF) is bringing her knowledge and experience of US fundraising to help support and grow the organisation and its portfolio of 27 charities and social enterprises that work transforming the lives of 11-24 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds. Emily Wight spoke to Erin about venture philanthropy and how it is engaging a new generation of philanthropists.
What drew you to work with Impetus-PEF?
Impetus-PEF is a very pioneering organisation, and that’s really one of the primary reasons why I was tempted to come. The venture philanthropy model was really tested and established in the United States in the late 1990s, but it was Impetus Trust and PEF - which were two different organisations prior to 2013 - who were really pioneering it in the UK.
Can you summarise the concept of venture philanthropy?
The concept of venture philanthropy is easy to sum up, in that it grew out of the idea that charities could be much more effective if their infrastructure was much more stable and thorough. So we find the most promising charities and social enterprises and help them become highly effective organisations that transform lives by providing management support, pro bono expertise and funding; then we help them expand significantly so as to dramatically increase the number of young people they serve. What many pioneers of the movement discovered is that in the corporate sector there were quite a lot of evaluative tools that made sure they were hitting targets and there were lots of good ways of measuring success and driving success within the for-profit world. But in charities, because there is so much pressure to direct funding to those in need, and rightly so, a lot of times the tools to measure success were neglected because there wasn’t the time or money for it, or because they were so focused on the need that they were attempting to serve.
How has Impetus-PEF harnessed the model of venture philanthropy?
It means that we’ve got over 20 charities who we have identified as very likely to have substantial impact on the area that we are concerned with. For the most part, people who are interested in venture philanthropy are really the new generation of philanthropists and that’s the very reason for the emergence of venture philanthropy - new generations of philanthropists are not interested in giving their money in the same way, they want to do good but they also want to do it very well.
What is your relevant professional experience?
I was on my way to law school to do international human rights law, then I applied for a programme job right before I was about to start and had an interview with a small Latino charity and was offered a role as director of development. So that was around 20 years ago, and since then I have spent half my time in social justice, but the other half was spent in higher education. I was at New York University as a director for nine years in various capacities, and then I was director of fundraising for the legal aid society in New York for four years. I have been in London for ten years - the first five years working for transatlantic or international organisations including the British Heart Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Then I went to King’s College London and headed up their fundraising for a health partnership. Then I co-founded a consulting practice. It’s been going two years now, and it’s going really well - I just stepped down from the role of global director to global philanthropy adviser, so I will continue to have a foot in that, but at the same time focusing my attention here.
How will you approach this new role?
I think coming from New York University which is a place that has an absolutely stellar model for fundraising, you don’t see any of the fundraisers coming from the world of marketing or sales, rather you see them coming from academic backgrounds. We need our philanthropy team to be first and foremost fundamentally committed to what it is that we do here, both to the model of venture philanthropy, but also to the end goal which is impacting children aged 11-24, and I think the only way we’ll do that well is with the philanthropy team from extremely smart and experienced backgrounds, so I do look forward to applying some of those skills that I’ve learned from those different backgrounds.
What do you aim to achieve specifically in your new role?
We did a very very rigorous business plan for the entire organisation for the next five years, and our next stage is to develop the fundraising strategy. We will also be looking to diversify beyond the private sectors, so building upon those relationships, reaching out to other areas within the finance sector, and really focusing on grant making trusts who are interested in the venture philanthropy model and want to feel that it’s an effective tool for affecting change. My first goal is to really build the philanthropy department which will involve creating a comprehensive strategy for engagement which will make sure that we are methodical and strategic in the relationships that we build, so that we’re not only the access point for raising money, but we’re also the access point that opens doors for pro bono and for raising awareness on a policy level. I will be fundraising for both Impetus-PEF and all the charities in our portfolio. Our approach is proven to deliver great value for money: for every £1 invested, we provide £3 of value to our portfolio charities so our supporters can be truly confident that their donation will have maximum impact. We aren’t able to give specific financial fundraising targets at the moment but, in terms of new supporters or pro bono volunteers - well, the sky’s the limit! The more volunteers we have, the more charities we can help and the more young lives will be transformed.
At what point would you say you have achieved success?
In the very long term, you could say it’s when we’re no longer needed as an organisation because all young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are succeeding at school and in work. To get there we need government, policy makers, decision makers, charities, everyone to be following our driving impact agenda - that is investing in, supporting and championing social interventions that are proven beyond doubt to work.
Who can help you in achieving your aims?
We deal with a lot of corporate clients and corporate donors who are interested in engaging and that is above and beyond the finance sector. It’s actually about bringing in a substantial amount of pro bono support. We tap into a really extensive network of absolutely blue chip resources that come from the corporate community, whether it be management consulting, legal accounting - who come into the organisations we work with and help them develop best practices. I think the corporate sector feels that their giving is much more meaningful to them when it’s not just giving money but it’s also volunteering time and expertise. At this point most of our pro bono work comes from the City or various sectors within the corporate world. Anyone who can offer pro bono advice, from serving on boards of the charities that we’re funding to mentoring kids who are in school to working with kids in the workplace.
How can readers support the work of Impetus-PEF?
The philanthropy team welcomes the opportunity to talk to potential donors and our pro bono team welcomes experts from a wide variety of backgrounds, including consulting, financial services, law, marketing, executive coaching, accountancy and government. Companies can also offer the professional expertise of their employees on specific capacity building projects for our portfolio of ambitious charities. These projects allow companies’ staff to volunteer time and skills in a way that has the most impact possible for the charity involved and is very satisfying for volunteers.
Want to contribute your skills or think a team within your company might want to volunteer? Click here to see how you can get in touch with Impetus-PEF