Life lessons: Salvatore LaSpada

Philanthropists and industry insiders share their advice on intelligent giving, and the experience they’ve gained along the way

Salvatore LaSpada is a global philanthropy adviser focused on family foundations. His former roles include founding executive director of the UAE’s Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, chief executive of the UK’s Institute for Philanthropy, and director of the Philanthropy Workshop at the Rockefeller Foundation. Here, he shares some advice on intelligent giving:

Truly effective interventions need the input of the community most touched by, and closest to, the problem. If you stay inside the boardroom, you invest huge sums of money that ultimately have no impact

Philanthropy is described as patient capital. It works best when it stays focused and gets involved in it for the long haul. Donors need to stick with issues over time, despite the enormous lure to spread resources over a number of issue areas or, frankly, to give up when the going gets tough.   

"Find partners early. No foundation will solve the problems of the world alone"The philanthropic sector is sorely lacking case studies and research. Some of the best lessons for a philanthropist come from hearing how their peers have approached giving, but the need for evidence is significant, too.

Preparing the next generation through training and early exposure to the family foundation is the best way to guarantee its longevity and vitality. The transition from one generation to the next is one of the hardest things to achieve.

A common mistake among philanthropists is making decisions based on impressions. An anecdote can be informative, but it is not a substitute for having deep, data-based knowledge of an issue.

Find partners early. No foundation will solve the problems of the world alone. But you can solve a bigger piece of the puzzle if you stay focused on an issue, and collaborate with others.