"Focus On Changing One Person's Life, Not The Entire World," Says Philanthropist Dee Dee Chan

By Josephine Colter

In the latest episode of Up to Speed with UBS, the chief investment officer at Park Lane Capital Holdings and director of Seal of Love Charitable Foundation discusses a new model of philanthropy, the energy and dynamism in the space, and how we can leverage technology to get more people giving

Tatler Asia

The traditional idea of philanthropy is rapidly changing. Once solely an activity for older, accomplished businessmen at the end of their careers, today, value-driven, young Asian entrepreneurs are getting involved much earlier on in their careers, and crowdsourcing learnings, as opposed to operating in a silo.

The result? The 1.5 trillion US dollars wrapped up in philanthropic foundations worldwide is starting to be spent differently, with trends such as collaborative giving starting to take hold. 

So, why is the word ‘philanthropy’ going out of style?  How should modern philanthropists measure impact?  And what are the biggest trends shaping the future of giving in Asia? 

We asked these questions and more to philanthropist Dee Dee Chan in the eleventh episode of our podcast, Up to Speed with UBS. In conversation with Gen.T’s Lee Williamson, Chan shares why it can be harder to give away your money than to make it, why grantors and grantees must be willing to take risks, and why some entrepreneurs struggle to make the leap into philanthropy, where impact is notoriously tricky to measure. 

Here are a few excerpts from the conversation. Click the audio player below to listen to the full episode.

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ON COLLABORATIVE GIVING

“It’s better to do it in collaboration and learn together with other people than to try and do it alone.”

ON RUNNING A PHILANTHROPIC FUND SUCCESSFULLY

“You have a lot of people who give well-meaning gifts like beds, to people in countries where people like to sleep on the floor. And that's not effective giving.”

ON THE STRUGGLES OF TRANSITIONING FROM ENTREPRENEUR TO PHILANTHROPIST

“For people who are in business who are used to controlling everything, they're going to have to let go a little bit of that control. But I think it's an enriching endeavour. And my advice would be to focus not on changing the entire world all at once, but focus on changing one person's life.”

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ON FINDING JOY IN THE ACT OF GIVING

“I think as a philanthropist, you really need to enjoy what you're doing. Don't get too hung up on getting everything perfect. In the beginning, you should actually have enormous joy from the act of giving. And when you find the right partners, it's a synergistic relationship, you learn as much as they're receiving.”

ON THE LESS GLAMOROUS AREAS IN NEED OF PHILANTHROPY

“One area that I think is very important in Asia is human trafficking. But the area is very opaque, and it's not easy for many Asian philanthropists to get comfortable with this type of need.”

ON THE NEED FOR GRANTORS AND GRANTEES TO TAKE RISKS

“I think one of the biggest challenges as a philanthropist is finding suitable partners with whom you have the same vision, you have synergy and you can grow together and take some risks together. And risk-taking is important for both the grantor and the grantee. It's a responsibility.”

ON THE CHANGING FACE OF PHILANTHROPY IN ASIA

“The face of philanthropy in Asia is definitely changing for the better, especially as younger generations get mixed into the fold. I think we'll see much more collaborative giving, and technology won't just be an afterthought. We'll see micro-giving campaigns that allow mass participation and blockchain will revolutionise the giving process, especially with galas and other fundraisers.”

Quotes are edited for clarity and brevity.

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