Prize-winning philanthropy

By Rachel Findlay 23 July 2012

Working in philanthropy, I often hear people saying we should be more like the Americans and speak out about our giving to inspire others to give more, and give better—I  agree, people should be more open about their philanthropy. As NPC discussed in our report Ten ways to boost giving, role models play an important part in inspiring others.

That’s why I think that BNP Paribas’ Prize for Individual Philanthropy should be applauded. Over the last three years, NPC has worked with BNP Paribas to assist with finding eligible candidates globally for their Prize for Individual Philanthropy. This looks to award two prizes: the Grand Prix, to an individual who has donated considerable sums in a strategic, sustainable and effective way; and the Jury’s Special Prize to a dedicated philanthropist committed to implementing an innovative and new operational project in their field.

Since its launch in 2008, the BNP Paribas Prize for Individual Philanthropy has recognised remarkable candidates globally. It’s a fantastic job for NPC. We get to assist with finding and researching lots of exciting potential candidates, and the winners are then selected by an independent jury, made up of experts from the world of art, culture, business and NGOs. The jury studies the profiles of the nominees and selects the winners based on various criteria, such as the social impact of the philanthropy initiatives, the philanthropists’ personal and financial commitment, and the professionalism and viability of the projects.

This year, the Jury chose the philanthropist Viviane Senna for the Grand Prix. Viviane founded the Instituto Ayrton Senna in 1994 in memory of her brother, three-times Formula 1 champion Ayrton Senna. Not long before his death, Ayrton and Viviane had discussed their dream of creating an organisation to support street children in Brazil. Viviane started the Instituto Ayrton Senna with funds from his legacy, and since its inception, the institute has spent almost $110m on tackling deeply ingrained problems in Brazilian state education. It works on a large scale through its partnership with the public education system, and has now reached nearly 16 million children and 694,000 educators in over 1,500 cities. The institute has impressive results, with an incredible 95% of the students it works with completing their education, compared to a national average of only 30%.

This year’s Special Prize went to Michael de Giorgio, who founded Greenhouse. In 2002, Michael was collecting his son from his private school in London when he noticed the empty playing fields, which lay unused outside schools hours. Michael set up Greenhouse initially to allow underprivileged children to make the most of facilities such as these. Greenhouse has grown fast since then, working with 10,000 young people in London last year. It aims to help young people living in deprived communities to develop life skills through sports and performing arts—activities they might not be able to access otherwise. Again, its results are impressive: participants report improvements in self-confidence, self-discipline, motivation and happiness at school. This improved engagement in school leads to improved academic performance, and last year the young people Greenhouse works with outperformed their school peers by an average of 8% in English and Maths, the equivalent of a GCSE grade in each.

The Prizewinners are impressive, and BNP Paribas itself deserves recognition for what it seeks to achieve through the Prize. The Prize is an opportunity to recognise the efforts of inspirational philanthropists, promoting philanthropy through sharing exceptional stories. BNP Paribas offers the Grand Prix winner the publication of an art book, tracing their life and the development of their philanthropic initiatives. Each year, the book forms part of a collection which started in 2008 with the 1st Grand Prix winner, Dr. Mo Ibrahim. Dr. Ibraham was awarded the prize for his efforts in improving governance practices in African politics. The Special Prize offers €50,000 towards the philanthropist’s project. A prize ceremony is held each year in Paris, where the two winners and former laureates share their philanthropic journies with BNP Paribas Wealth Management’s clients.

The Prize benefits everyone involved—the winners get to showcase their work and increase awareness of their cause, the public get to hear inspirational stories of good giving. In the UK, where there is still so much discretion around charitable giving, its good to be involved in an initiative seeking to speak out about what can be achieved through giving, and inspire others.