Sir Charles Dunstone, founder of Carphone Warehouse, shared his experience of giving and business at a Young Philanthropy Breakfast held on November 23rd at KPMG in the City of London.
Describing himself as a ‘lucky idiot’ Sir Charles, who was placed number 64 in the 2006 Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated £830m fortune, first gave young City professionals some insight into the entrepreneurial ups and downs of Carphone Warehouse. He described a number of ‘black holes’ the business had been through, admitting some had been as a result of bad decision-making. He said his experience in business led him to define entrepreneurship as “ignoring the risks, working things out while you are on the journey and still believing it will work out all right’.
His giving he said was born of a desire to give something back. He said as an under achiever at school and someone who was easily led he could have ended up taking a very different path.
“I feel lucky that was the case and I wanted to give something back, and to focus on young people.” Sir Charles is a sponsor of Fulwood Academy in Preston, which specialises in performing arts and digital media, as well as a council member of the Prince’s Trust and chairman of Prince’s Trust Trading. He said how rewarding he found philanthropy “and the amazing impact small programmes can have” and encouraged others to try it.
Sir Charles also paid tribute to Young Philanthropy, which has grown the number of Young Philanthropy Syndicates from three to 15 in just over a year. With funding from Nesta’s Innovation in Giving Fund Young Philanthropy hope to expand Young Philanthropy across the City.
The Syndicate model leverages the giving of a group of connected young professionals by engaging a senior philanthropist to match donations which are given to selected niche charity projects. The model aims to maximise impact while facilitating networking as well as building bridges between experienced philanthropists and those new to giving.
Syndicates are established by ‘founding members’ who identify a particular cause or issue that motivates them. They then connect with colleagues or friends to form a giving network, and an experienced philanthropist is brought in to mentor the syndicate. It can work in a corporate context with colleagues brought together across a firm and supported by senior professionals as the likes of Ernst & Young, Deloitte, PwC and KPMG are doing; or as an independent or online network.
The KPMG syndicate, which hosted the breakfast meeting, was founded by Alex Dwek, Audit Associate of The Private Equity Group. It has invested £5,000 in supporting Barnado’s Young Women’s Project in Islington that offers advice and support to young women who have been sexually abused and exploited.
Alex says: “The Syndicate model has allowed each us to give our time, as well as money, to an extremely worthwhile cause. We have developed a deep and meaningful connection with the charity, and the young women in Islington. I hope our positive experience can inspire new Syndicates to get started.”
The next Young Philanthropy Syndicate Breakfast features Adrian Beecroft, former Chief Investment Officer of Private Equity group APAX Partners and co-founder of the venture philanthropy charity Impetus Trust, speaking on ‘How can philanthropy help break the cycle of poverty in the UK?’ It will be held at Ernst & Young, on April 3rd 2013, from 7.30am.