Philanthropy in the 21st Century

The following is a summary of the breakout session "Philanthropy in the 21st Century" at the 2015 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference in November 2015. 

(L-R) Mr. Anderson, Ms. Chano, Mr. Latimore, Mr. Hasegawa, Mr. Guild

Mr. Todd Guild, Director Emeritus, Senior Advisor, McKinsey & Company, Inc. opened the session by welcoming the panelists and audience in his capacity as moderator. The U.S.-Japan Council and TOMODACHI are critical examples of how philanthropy can drive international relations forward. After the Great East Japan Earthquake and the September 11 attacks, both Japan and the U.S. responded in powerful and decisive ways. The panelists were a diverse and exciting group, he said, and he was looking forward to a fruitful and constructive discussion.

Mr. Yasuchika Hasegawa, Chairman of the Board, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. shared basic approaches to philanthropy, and how it evolved post-March 2011. Philanthropy must be focused on bringing relief to affected areas quickly, and must place an emphasis on rebuilding affected areas effectively. Therefore, feedback from businesses and communities is key. Long-term, wide-scope philanthropy is essential, with strategic attention paid to partnerships and “building back better.” It must also invest in people. Especially in Tohoku, where the population is aging rapidly, it is necessary to improve opportunities for young people. Diversification of support activities is also needed to meet the varied needs of the affected communities. For corporate philanthropy, engaging the executives is of extreme importance. Through the engagement of these individuals, it was possible for Takeda to create a mechanism for long-term aid, and embed it in corporate strategy and culture at the highest levels.

Mr. Tim Latimore, Country Executive for Japan, Bank of America Group added that by developing sustainable CSR, it is necessary to have the understanding of the people at the top. Having a diverse team of executives pushing the agenda is important. However, people on the ground are also key, so they can take responsibility and ownership, have direct oversight, and be in tune with the needs of the communities.

Mr. Hasegawa spoke about encouraging training and education efforts. In disaster-affected areas in Tohoku, vocational schools were hit in addition to other facilities. Rebuilding these facilities, and providing equipment and scholarships, is key to minimizing negative economic effects. He mentioned the establishment of private sector collaboration between the U.S. and Japan.

Mr. Andy Anderson, Co-Chair, Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund also works with intermediaries and local partners. After the March 11 disaster, his Fund worked closely with locally-based JET Programme Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) to distribute volunteer labor and funds to affected areas, especially schools. ALTs were instrumental in providing ideas for high-impact outreach activities which directly benefit local communities.

Mr. Hasegawa said that major earthquake disasters are inevitable in Japan because of its geographic location. Therefore, preparedness and resilience are key and must happen from the grassroots level. Takeda provides periodic training and seminars for its employees to this end.

Mr. Latimore said that at his company, philanthropic activities are grouped around global and regional themes, including women and children in need, and arts and culture. In the East Asian region, focus is on the former. NPOs and local organizations to support are chosen based on this criteria. The Global Master’s Program was conducted in Japan for the first time in recent years, and takes promising female entrepreneurs and pairs them with top executives from around the world for a week of intensive mentoring. With the rise of Abenomics and Womenomics in Japan, this proved to be very effective. Another program was conducted with museums, where the person in charge took a few unorthodox approaches to restoring national treasures. For example, independent contractors were hired, which was unheard of in Japan, and the entire process was filmed and broadcast on NHK. Grant-giving was promoted in a way to spread awareness to the public to the greatest extent possible.

Ms. Junko Chano, Executive Director, Sasakawa Peace Foundation; President, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA described the Japan Platform for grant allocation and dispersal. It was successful in Japan, and was introduced to Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and other countries. After the recent earthquake in Nepal, more locally-based organization coordinated and conducted philanthropic efforts, as opposed to international parties.

At Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Mr. Latimore said, there are very high levels of employee participation in volunteer activities. 43% are involved in some aspect of the volunteer program. This feeds into various skills-based training activities, including helping local individuals solving everyday problems. Ultimately, it can help to tie volunteer activities to other local business opportunities.

In addition to CSR, the activities of foundations must also be considered. Ms. Chano said that in many cases, foundations are not as agile as corporations because they have less financial resources and flexibility. Foundations do not exist only to give money. They look for projects that contribute to solving social problems and lead to the betterment of society. Foundations can play multi-faceted roles to support local communities and help them develop in a more independent manner. They can also facilitate network-building, connecting communities to corporations and policymakers. American foundations tend to be aggressive in self-promotion and looking for donors and funders. Japanese foundations tend to be modest, and make wishful assumptions about project and funding opportunities. Best practice NPOs see foundations in a more strategic role.

Mr. Anderson agreed that foundations have major potential in supporting NPOs. Mission alignment is very important, as well as ensuring accountability in a mutual manner. Ms. Chano said that strategic partnerships, on equal footing, are of vital importance in ensuring that the benefits of projects are optimized.

Ms. Chano spoke about the importance of social impact investing as a critical future trend in philanthropy. The difference between foundations and social impact investing is that foundations are good at identifying potential projects and needs, while social impact investing focuses on taking investments that have a clear social benefit. Mr. Latimore added that it represents an evolution of philanthropy, especially with the emergence of social impact bonds in the U.S. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has structured Green Bonds dedicated to climate issues and other areas.

Mr. Anderson lost his daughter in the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster in 2011 in Ishinomaki. He said that if she could, she would have stayed behind in Tohoku to help the local people there, in particular her students. In this way, the strategy and direction of the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund, the NPO founded to honor her memory, were set to assist the local community in rebuilding and revitalization efforts. Involving local stakeholders is key, which is why local ALTs were a starting point in the early days after the disaster. To further philanthropic activities, it is crucial to make connections between people, establish a common mission, and share lessons learned and ideas. By identifying leaders and setting concrete program missions, clear, replicable program goals can be established.

Mr. Hasegawa agreed that making connections is of vital importance, whether from individual to individual, or between academia, industry, and the government. In this way, resources can be used effectively, and projects can be focused. Establishing corporate partnerships can lead to long-term benefits, both for communities and business.

Mr. Anderson shared that for successful fundraising, communication with and approval of donors is key. Whether through events, films, websites, or brochures, clear, consistent communication that takes advantage of success stories and interesting anecdotes is crucial. Measurable metrics must be established, and impact must be demonstrated. Strong leaders of NPOs ensure long-term sustainability, and can also pass the mission and qualities of the organization down to successors. One major factor for leaders is feeling the worth of the work that they do. He shared stories of the grassroots benefits the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund’s programs have on the local community in Miyagi Prefecture.

An audience member asked how the philanthropic activities of the panelists help ensure resilience. Mr. Hasegawa answered that “building back better” is key. There is significant research about how to build earthquake and tsunami resilient communities, and it is necessary to share this data with local communities. Mr. Anderson added that city planning is key. Ms. Chano stated that public health also must be considered. Mr. Latimore answered that the psychological aspects must also be recognized, especially relating to leadership programs and soft power.

An audience member asked how the panelists shared best practices and lessons learned with others in the region. Ms. Chano mentioned the Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management. It is necessary to encourage young people to think not only about disaster response, but resilience and preparedness as well. This program serves as an opportunity to share best practices and conduct grassroots level training.

An audience member asked about the best ways to encourage young people to work in NGOs and other philanthropic organizations. There is a significant gap in salaries between the non-profit sector and the private sector. Mr. Anderson answered that the first step is getting young people involved in volunteer activities. By instilling a mindset for philanthropy from a young age, this will lead to more young people choosing such a career path. Mr. Guild answered that in addition to salary and sense of purpose, having good leaders and mentors, as well as effective governance strategies, is key to motivating young people. Ms. Chano said that social impact bonds represent a new way to bring capital and purpose into the NGO field. These new activities and movements create awareness among young people looking to enter the field.

Mr. Guild closed the session by thanking the panelists and audience members for their enthusiastic participation.