Dr Frederick Mulder CBE
Native Canadian Dr Frederick Mulder, CBE, introduced the notion of giving circles to the UK more than 15 years ago. He founded The Funding Network, or ‘tiffin’ as it is affectionately known, in the UK almost 13 years ago, that has raised more than £8m and is now spreading globally. His grant-making Trust, The Frederick Mulder Foundation (FMF) is funded by the profits of Frederick Mulder Limited, a private art dealership specialising in European printmaking between1470-1970. In 2014 the sale of an extensive Picasso linocut collection, marked a new era for the trust. Half the proceeds of the sale were transferred to FMF, and Mulder, who is chair, with three of his children who are also trustees, is now able to make grants totalling up to £600,000 a year until 2026 and to make impact investments within the renewables sector.
How would you describe your philanthropy and what is your goal?
One part of my giving is around The Funding Network, which I founded with three friends in 2002 – live crowdfunding here and now in 12 other countries. Through it we have supported many hundreds of small charities and have now raised a total of £8m. Outside TFN I focus on climate change and the persistence of global poverty. I am really concerned about creating fairer systems that are not robbing future generations. I used to give very intuitively, and to people who inspired me, but having done The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW) I realised I needed to be more strategic and focus on just a few things.
What does philanthropy mean to you?
I am not a fan of the word ‘philanthropy’; it sounds too grand scale. For the work I am involved with I prefer ‘focused giver’. Giving means a lot to me personally and it is an important part of my life. Through it I have created friendships of purpose. If you join a donor network you meet people and see them regularly and there is something about the involvement of money that puts people into problem solving mode; you want to make something happen.
What was your first experience of philanthropy?
My first experience of making an intentional strategic gift was in 1985 when I underwrote an ad campaign for Greenpeace following the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. I had been running a stall in Swiss Cottage for CND and I was struck by how many people thought it was a CND ship which had sunk. I called Greenpeace and asked them why they weren’t doing more publicity around the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. They didn’t have the budget, so I offered to underwrite a campaign that put ads on the front page of several newspapers about their work. Each time it ran it raised four to five times its cost, and Greenpeace’s membership also shot up. That success was kind of a thrill.
Do you feel you are making a difference? If so how?
In our climate change work we are focusing on financial flows such as the Divest/Invest campaign, and the Carbon Tracker initiative that seek to align capital markets with international climate policy objectives; Carbon Tracker has played an important role in establishing the twin concepts of “unburnable carbon” and “stranded assets”, which are now playing an increasingly big role in investment decisions. We were either lucky or prescient in our timing, but it’s been rewarding that the issues we are playing a part in are being taken up; you feel you are having some leverage as a player in that space.
Has your philanthropy had an impact on your personal or professional life?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it seems to have had a positive effect in my professional life, though I am definitely considered unusual in the art world. Best of all, I’ve been able to involve colleagues and clients in some of the work that I do.
Of what are you most proud?
It must be the creation and nurture of The Funding Network. I feel we have created something that, with the help of our wonderful staff and trustee body, will outlive us and I am proud of that.
Why is philanthropy important today?
In the UK we are among the wealthiest 1% of people in the world. Although we know that, we don’t always realise it’s at the cost of the 99%. Global inequality is actually growing and I worry about the sense of entitlement of much of the 1% which is leading to even greater inequality. We need to address the underlying structures that drive inequality, such as the rules around taxation and trade, and philanthropy is important in that.
What advice would you give to people starting out on their own journey?
Join a group and get involved. Don’t wait until you think you know all the answers - give as you learn. Come to a Funding Network event; it’s a good way to get started.
Visit The Funding Network to find out more and get involved.