Karin Jestin advises high-wealth donors on their philanthropic endeavours to produce a positive and lasting impact for the common good. After studying at HEC Paris, Stern School of Management at New York University and the University Luigi Bocconi in Milan, she spent a number of years with McKinsey in Paris. From there, she joined the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva as special advisor to the Secretary General. She then led the philanthropic activities of Lombard Odier. The philanthropy services she developed for the bank won a Global Private Banking Award 2015. Since 2016 she has been an independent consultant in strategic philanthropy.
“I’ve got some good news. Money can buy happiness, in certain conditions, when we give it away!”
Strategic philanthropy specialist Karin Jestin was a guest speaker at the last FHH Forum, giving an insight into her profession, and striving to disprove the old adage that “money can’t buy you happiness.”
“I’ve got some good news for you: Money can buy you happiness—when you give it away!” Karin Jestin knows how to get her point across. As guest speaker at the 9th FHH Forum on the theme “The Age of Meaning,” this consultant in strategic philanthropy had come to explain how to give meaning to money. After studying economics in Paris, New York and Milan, Karin Jestin gradually began to focus on wealth management for humanitarian ends. With experience at McKinsey, at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and at Lombard Odier bank under her belt, she’s now one of the leading independent consultants in the field of strategic philanthropy. “Some people donate on an impulse, while others take a more considered approach,” she explained. “The second approach is what we call philanthropy, or patronage.” Although there’s no financial benefit to giving, it can prove extremely rewarding emotionally. “Studies show that giving money produces a feeling of happiness,” continued Jestin. “So that act of giving can have the same impact on your mood as doubling your income. What’s more, philanthropy gives an excellent grounding in humility. Turns out some people find it much easier to make money than to spend it intelligently.”
Switzerland has a long tradition of charity, with its oldest charitable organization, the Inselspital Hospital, dating right back to 1354! Nowadays there are around 13,500 foundations in Switzerland, and their numbers are increasing at a rate of one a day. 80 billion Swiss francs are under management, with about 2 billion CHF distributed every year. “People have all sorts of motivations,” according to Jestin. “They might be driven by family or religious values, or it might be a way of honoring the memory of a loved one, or trying to remedy social injustice. Aims can be very diverse, too, like supporting disadvantaged but deserving medical students, helping victims of torture, or combating plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.”
Philanthropy is gaining ground
Although philanthropic bodies usually spring up from private funds, they can also be founded by companies. Of the some 5,000 foundations that exist in France, 20% are company foundations. “Very few firms take their social role seriously,” laments Jestin. “Many of them consider these bodies as marketing tools, set up to boost their image or to give them PR leverage. And yet they have significant potential to impact society.” She adds: “Sometimes it’s easier to take action upstream, for instance by creating conditions for fair wages or by installing pollution control measures in factories.”
Jestin is fully aware that the lifespan of these foundations is increasingly a matter for debate. At the moment there’s no time limitation, but increasingly, in some quarters at least, there’s a call for it. “When the state accepts losing tax revenue by allowing the foundations to be endowed with funds, it expects those funds to be used for the benefit of civil society,” she explains. “Yet those resources may disappear from circulation for a very long time.” Philanthropy is nevertheless the best way of giving meaning to money—and people are reaching that awareness at an earlier and earlier age. “In the old days, people would only give away part of their fortune on their deathbed. Nowadays altruism is considered something that we grow into around the age of fifty, often resulting from a feeling of gratitude. Some donors are even younger, and may get involved in philanthropic work personally.” Like the family that found out one of its children had spina bifida. They set up their own foundation to combat the disease, proving incidentally that you don’t have to be rich to be a philanthropist.
Click on the video to view the speaker’s interview at the Forum.
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