August 19, 2011 10:44 pm

How to give it: Peter Wheeler

Peter Wheeler says he created the think-tank New Philanthropy Capital to help charities achieve greater impact
Peter Wheeler

Peter Wheeler, 54, was until last year head of wholesale banking (west) at Standard Chartered. He is co-founder and chairman of trustees at consultancy and think-tank New Philanthropy Capital, chairman of the Young Foundation and a founder of Charity Technology Trust.

What is the first charity you can remember supporting?

As a schoolboy, the RNLI [Royal National Lifeboat Institution], because my father was a keen sailor. As an adult it was Camila Batmanghelidjh’s charity Kids Company [which helps deprived children in London]. I spent a day there and was won over by their amazing achievements against the odds. So I started giving a bit, then became a trustee.

Which cause do you feel most passionately about?

No single cause but I believe the charitable impulse is a noble aspect of humanity, and I care a lot about how it is converted into real benefit for people in need. Back in 2001, Gavyn Davies [and I] agreed that it was difficult to give money away sensibly. So we created New Philanthropy Capital to help funders and charities achieve greater impact.

Are some charities too large?

Some are. Others are too small. Charities need to be the right size to do their jobs, without being too burdened by their history, the power of their brand or the perpetual desire to reinvent the wheel. There is too little change in the charity sector.

How might technology help charities?

By improving communication with charities’ clients (those they serve) and their supporters (those that fund them). The Charity Technology Trust helps charities benefit from technology.

How would you like to see charitable donation changed?

I welcome the focus from this government with their “Giving” White Paper. I was on the board of the recent Philanthropy Review [which reported its findings in June 2011], advising it. Our overall thrust is that there are a few things that government can do directly, such as tax tweaks. Its main role should be to help other elements of society – business, charities themselves – to take a more enlightened path. Payroll giving is a win-win proposition, for example, but [take-up] is appalling. Attention from government and business could change that in 12 months.

What percentage of income should we give to charity?

The 10 per cent tithing rate is a good place to start but [It should be] more for the rich and less for the poor. How you do it is also important. A little personal engagement is more important than an extra £50.

Do wealthy people have a duty to charity?

I don’t like the idea of “duty”, though I think the case can be made. I believe that one of the great things that comes with wealth is the ability to leave the world a better place. That doesn’t have to be through charity but many people find that philanthropy soon becomes important to them.

Howtogiveit@ft.com

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