September 17, 2011 12:47 am

How to give it: Dr Shamil Chandaria

Social investment can provide loans and other forms of investment that help to prime activities

Dr Shamil Chandaria, 46, is chairman of Amplitude Capital and has several other City roles. He has invested £2.5m in the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) Social Impact Fund, which provides capital, underwriting and bridging loans to charities and social enterprises ( www.cafonline.org ).

What was your first major donation to charity?

I wanted to focus on education, so I helped to set up the Institute of Philosophy at University College London’s School of Advanced Study. At the other end of the spectrum I’ve just finished a five-year programme sponsoring schools for slum children in Mumbai.

Which cause do you feel most strongly about now?

I’m a patron of the National Obesity Forum, dealing with the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, which is a huge and difficult issue. The other big thing is the social investment side, which I’ve worked on with CAF. Charities traditionally use only straightforward donations. Social investment can provide loans and other forms of investment which help to prime activities. After three to six years that money is returned to the social impact fund, which means it can be recycled many times.

Why the shift from straightforward donation?

I see social investment as being as well as, not instead of, donation. I come from a business background, where many types of finance – loans, equity, venture capital – suit different needs. Similarly, charity can benefit from different types of finance.

Why do you give to charity?

I’ve been fortunate enough to do reasonably well financially, so I feel some responsibility for helping to improve the world somehow. I don’t think it’s an obligation, but I think it’s a good way to use money. There’s a strong tradition in countries like India, where I’m from, and America that philanthropy is a part of life. That’s marvellous because philanthropists have the power to do things that governments wouldn’t or shouldn’t do.

Such as?

Taxes are for society’s actual needs. There are other things on a wish list. So, for example, Andrew Carnegie setting up libraries was a wonderful thing. Philanthropy does something above and beyond tax’s ability, outside the narrow requirements of a society restrained by economic reality.

In the broad charitable world, what would you like to see changed?

I’d like to see more social investment, attracting new money and new thinking. For example, charities that help rehabilitate released prisoners are paid by the government on a results basis. With a set-up like that, charities can create a revenue stream which repays investment and makes the whole thing self-sufficient.

I’d also like to see more money passed to charity than to family, following the example of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. The concept of rich family dynasties is losing popularity. I think government should encourage philanthropy as part of the inheritance mechanism, perhaps with tax incentives.

howtogiveit@ft.com

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