Brokerage is key to change the corporate giving scenarioTHE HIGH LEVELS OF CORPORATE GIVING IN COUNTRIES SUCH AS UK, FRANCE, BELGIUM OR SWITZERLAND ARE ALSO DUE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF STRUCTURES THAT ACT AS PHILANTHROPIC INTERMEDIARIES, EXPLAINS ALUMNUS MARCELLO GALLO, PRESIDENT OF THE DONOR ITALIA NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION
Italy is not yet a country of donors, and less so when it comes to companies. Due to the small average size of Italian companies, which limit their resources and professionalism, but also the lack of suitable interlocutors in the non-profit sector, corporate giving in our country is significantly lower compared to the reality of neighboring countries such as Switzerland or France. "The scenario, however, is rapidly evolving", guarantees Marcello Gallo, executive vice president of Intek Group, with a Bocconi degree and over 35 years of career in the world of finance, but also co-founder of Dynamo Camp and today president of the Donor Italia Foundation, a leading philanthropic brokerage entity in Italy. “The diffusion of ESG principles has shown that companies, even the largest ones, suffer from a marked gap between declarations of intent and activities actually implemented. This awareness, however, has produced a positive trend, namely that of separating the corporate functions that deal with sustainability from marketing one, as it had always been, to make them grow in pace with the entrepreneur or top management, precisely so that they can be translated more concretely into action and not just communication.
The Italian scenario, however, suffers from some historical delays, what are they due to?
The Edelman Trust Barometer reported, in a recent survey, that in many countries companies are perceived by people as the most reliable counterparts in the social sphere, ahead of state or church. This is not the case in Italy, due to the historical differences in conceiving the nature of the firm and the role of philanthropy, for example, with respect to the Anglo-Saxon world. To this, problems in welfare policy need to be added. Elsewhere the rules provide different incentives for entrepreneurs and companies to redistribute resources on the territory or among the employee community. The consequence is that countries such as England, France, Belgium, but above all Switzerland, have a much higher volume of donations from the corporate sphere and this difference is also seen in the development of philanthropic intermediation structures, which can have a key role in changing the scenario. In fact, these institutions act on a pivotal aspect which is the lack of common language between the companies that would like to establish a business-like dialogue and charities which, although deserving, are not equipped to deal with corporate interlocutors.
As it is an issue of skills, where do you start from? From in-company training, from universities, from the non-profit world?
I am not in a position to give grades, but I believe that it is the non-profit sector that needs to do the most progress. These actors must become aware of the fact that, especially when reaching a large scale, it is necessary to have an adequate staff, who must not only be skilled but also paid the right amount and, at least in part, dedicated to the care of relations with donors. On this front, universities seem more attentive to me, there are already numerous degree courses and training initiatives on the subject that attract many students. I myself have a daughter who graduated from Bocconi who told me that many of her friends of hers are choosing careers in non-profits. Sensitivity is therefore not lacking, but it is time for the world of work to adapt, and consider these professionals for what they are worth. Rather, universities could increase the number of short programs dedicated to third sector personnel, imparting that managerial approach and knowledge that corporate donors demand.
How much does the lack of ad hoc financial instruments affect donations?
In the corporate world, either by custom or by the desire to affirm one's brand, philanthropic activity is often delegated to a foundation. However, setting up a reality of this type requires high costs, demanding structures and the fueling of continuous activity. The result is that many corporate foundations, after the start-up phase, remain blocked: they have funds available, but they disburse them at a glacial pace or not at all. A philanthropic broker like Donor Italia has among its tasks, in addition to promoting Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), to revitalize these corporate non-profits.
Speaking of DAFs, what exactly are they and how they can help large enterprises and SMEs?
DAFs are nominative philanthropic funds, created by an organization or an individual through a modal donation, and hosted by umbrella foundations which assist the donor to help him/her give in a conscious, effective, safe and strategic way to the recipients the donor has identified, relieving him/her from all legal, administrative and managerial obligations. They are useful tools that in Italy re for the moment less widespread than elsewhere, but I am convinced that DAFs will soon be successful in Italy too. I would like to emphasize that DAFs are not the only service that the Donor Italia Foundation offers to fledgling philanthropists. For example, we are the only Italian partner of Transnational Giving Europe, a network made up of 20 illustrious European donor foundations, through which international donations are facilitated, ensuring certainty to donors about the movement of funds and tax deductibility according to the forecasts made for the country of residence. Tax incentives, and in particular the instrument of tax deductions, are an issue that deserves further study and around which a better dialogue could be built between all actors, private actors, government actors and the private sector.
A Bocconi graduate in Economics with a thesis defended with Mario Monti, Marcello Gallo turned management after imagining a professional future as an economist. "While I was waiting to start working at the Research Department of Banca Commerciale Italiana, I did an internship as analyst at Citybank," recalls the operational vice president of Intek Group. "That experience of working on finance, traveling between Milan and New York, made me discover an exciting world which I have never left since". When he joined the Intek group, he dealt with private equity, special situations, or transactions involving both companies in crisis and NPLs and, today, investments. He is one of the founders, together with Enzo Manes and Serena Porcari, of Dynamo Camp and president of the Donor Italia Foundation. "From my experience at Bocconi I have learned that curiosity needs training and the ability to explore relationships coalescing between many different elements. It is the little secret of those who study economics: they must know the theory but always remain linked to trends in society, politics, industry. At Bocconi I also owe the fact that I could do an Erasmus when the program didn't exist yet. I spent four months in Paris at ESSEC, and I remember that when I told my friends about it they couldn't believe that my university had let me go on exchange".
by Camillo Papini