Philanthropy is on the rise: more and more people want to make a difference in the world, but many do not know how to start. This is where Caroline Piraud comes into play: Julius Baer’s new philanthropy advisor supports individuals in defining their preferences and values in order to achieve their philanthropic goals.
What inspired you to become a Philanthropy Advisor?
Caroline Piraud: People don’t generally leave school knowing that they want to become a Philanthropy Advisor. I was born in Africa and grew up on several continents. Maybe this is the reason why I have always been interested in different cultures and analysing topics from an international perspective. I studied estate-planning law and worked with private clients for many years. Even as a lawyer, I always felt a strong desire to help people in need and prevent or mediate disputes rather than acting as a litigator. One day, while I was working in trust legal & compliance, I reached a point at which I wanted to do something more meaningful. From there, one thing led to another. Looking back now, I can see how my previous career steps in law firms, private banks, a trust company, a multi-family office and a NGO work together in my new role as philanthropy advisor at the Julius Baer Foundation.
When do individuals need a Philanthropy Advisor?
People need philanthropic advice either when they are about to embark on their philanthropic journey and are unsure of how and where to start, or when something on their philanthropic journey goes wrong. A philanthropy advisor provides advice on social investments and assists individuals in creating a strategic ‘giving plan’ that aims at making a difference in an area that matters to them.
I want to make sure that they engage in something they feel passionate about, as philanthropy is something that should flow from the heart
People interested in charitable giving, or getting involved in volunteering but with no idea how to do so, may well consult an advisor. Others might have a clear idea or mission – be it a project for safe drinking water or cancer research – but need advice on what approach to take. Sometimes my clients even head a charitable foundation, possibly inherited from a grandparent or great-grandparent, and feel overwhelmed by their new responsibilities. A philanthropy advisor is there to discuss such matters and outline options in line with the individuals’ values and goals, and ultimately support them in their philanthropic decisions.
How do you advise clients?
We typically start with a values exercise followed by the ‘TTT Discussions’ – time, talent, and treasure. Where do you stand in life? What can you invest? Do you have children who could be involved? What do you want to be remembered for? Do you want to build a legacy that your grandchildren will benefit from at some point? Does a personal foundation make sense, or would it be better to connect with an existing organisation? Personal motivation varies considerably from case to case. We conduct 1:1 meetings or family workshops. Another popular format to share best practice principles are the ‘Philanthropy Roundtables’ where one specific philanthropic issue is presented and discussed in depth. We literally ‘Walk the Talk’, because we practice within Julius Baer Foundation what we preach.
Could you share an anonymous case with us?
The younger generation of a family in Latin America faced problems asserting themselves and their ideas for the family foundation due to opposing views from their patriarchal grandfather. In this case, we brought the members from three generations together to reflect upon and discuss the values of the family. Furthermore, we formulated a new strategy for the foundation – unified as philanthropists. Our goal in such cases is to renovate or rebuild the strategic house of a foundation and make sure it’s a solid structure. This is a service we offer worldwide.
Apart from demonstrating solution-oriented skills, what is the most important trait a successful philanthropy advisor should have?
One should be a really good listener! It takes empathy and emotional intelligence to thoroughly understand an individual’s needs, values, goals and concerns. Advising people on which strategies they should adopt without fully appreciating their situation is the worst mistake a philanthropy advisor can make.
And which mistakes do aspiring philanthropists commonly make?
The biggest mistake is the fear of making mistakes - to the point at which you don’t even dare to decide or do anything. Another common mistake philanthropists make is to enthusiastically rush into a project without questioning the possible outcome. Analysing a situation, partnering with the beneficiaries at eye level and planning a possible exit strategy that creates sustainability for the project are hugely important steps. Sometimes it’s also a lack of fundraising skills that lead to failure. We are here to provide guidance on every step along the way.
What challenges do philanthropists face?
A huge topic in philanthropy is measuring impact. To me, that’s the big difference between charity and philanthropy: charitable giving can enrich, but you don’t always find out what impact your donation has, whereas philanthropists give strategically. They are entrepreneurial, want to monitor their engagement and measure their impact. It’s an enormous challenge for NGOs to define and set parameters that allow progress reports. An educational project may be relatively easy to measure, but countless subject areas need to be monitored differently or in the longer term. Philanthropy is like an investment; but instead of dividends, your return is a sense of fulfilment, happiness and leaving a mark by doing good.
What gives you the greatest sense of fulfilment?
The feeling of having made a difference in somebody’s life, whether it’s by solving a client’s situation or seeing results in the field. By visiting projects on site and getting in touch with the beneficiaries, we witness the differences made first-hand – these are enormously touching moments, which provide me with a huge job satisfaction.
What’s the next wave of philanthropy likely to be?
The democratisation of philanthropy has become a hot topic in the sector. For a long time, philanthropy has been reserved for the super-rich. Today, it is more and more accessible also to people from lower income brackets. This is mainly due to entrepreneurial approaches and technological advances paired with the emergence of digital platforms used for crowdfunding. We often refer to this as the ‘Third Philanthropic Revolution’. Exciting times with the potential of creating much more impact are ahead!
This portrait is part of the 'Wealth Architects' series in which we introduce you to our employees. All of them have practical tips and tricks in their area of expertise for you.