In this occasional series of interviews with the City’s (and sometimes the world’s) leading philanthropists we aim to bring guidance and inspiration to others. 27-year-old Nick Kershaw recently set up Uganda’s first ever international marathon as a way to connect fundraisers with the cause. This experience led him to leave his position as a wealth manager at a leading City firm to start Impact Marathon Series. Nick is also the Director of the Inspired50 – a philanthropy network bringing together 50 of the City’s most adventurous and inspiring people. We sat down with Nick to hear about his philanthropic philosophy and inspiration.
What does philanthropy mean to you?
The word amuses me if truth be told - we’ve actively invented a word to describe people acting the way we are wired to act. Philanthropy is simply about love, we can complicate it by adding pound signs, measuring impact and all sorts of things but if you are full of love and you exude that love to those around you then you are philanthropist! It’s nice and simple.
How would you describe your philanthropy and what is your goal?
I love enabling people - showing them how simple it is to help others and push people out of their comfort zone. If we all take a step outside of the world created by society and marketing agencies. Once we start looking outside these constructed ‘norms’ we see not only a world in need of our love, but a million opportunities to give it.
My goal is simple; to completely change the way people see themselves. I want to inspire love for one another through a clear love for ourselves. There are so many pressures we forget that we have this one life, this is our moment in time, our snapshot - we have this one opportunity to go big and nothing should ever hold us back from those dreams!
Do you feel you are making a difference? If so how?
I think it’s really important to take a step back. Because on any one day you are so wrapped up in the challenges and difficulties, such as maybe not hitting another big goal we’ve set ourselves that you forget the difference you are making along the way. Uganda Marathon will give us some clear measurable impact results over the coming months. In the first instance, there are now two running clubs in Masaka town, where we hosted the marathon. I think running is the most amazing sport to grow as a human so that is a nice tangible difference that had nothing to do with our projects.
But the interesting impact we didn't know we would have is on the runners who flew in from all over the world. To see their growth through the week and then hear how their lives have changed with this new mindset, world view or just enthusiastic vigour for life - we are making a difference. We have to keep reminding ourselves of that.
What is the biggest challenge you have had to date?
Setting up a three distance running race 4500 miles away from home with a brand new team, 5 months to sign up enough people to make it financially viable and in a country that really isn't exactly enthused by the concept of expediency! It was a tough old gig but our team did the most phenomenal job pulling together to genuinely create an experience like no other - which is what we advertised, so we got lucky there!
Has your philanthropy had an impact on your personal or professional life?
To the point my professional life has changed from working in the City to focusing on the Impact Marathons, that’s pretty huge. Personal life is harder to explain. I’ve struggled a lot in recent times. Actually, it’s been exceptionally hard but the work we are doing with the marathons and the lives that are being positively changed by our hard work inspires me through the difficulties. It’s easy to get wrapped up in personal troubles but when you zoom out and look at your life as a whole you can see an impact that extends so much further - in the end it really helps me to keep fighting and keep loving, regardless of personal pain.
Of what are you most proud?
The team who put together Uganda Marathon. Those guys lived and breathed this dream and brought it to life. For 6 people to achieve what they did, I couldn't love each one of them more. Sitting on the plane flying home I was lucky to be next to a runner who was so blown away by the experience it really brought home how wonderful an idea it is – running as a catalyst for change and a means of inspiring people to share their love of life with each other. But that’s fairy talk without the hard work and dedication of the amazing humans that made up the UGM2015 team.
Why is philanthropy important today?
All it takes is for us to open our eyes and we can see the need for the spreading of joy and love. Especially here in the City. Walk across London Bridge at rush hour, there is that trudge of humanity - there is so much pain on that bridge, so much unfulfilled potential, so much to be miserable about even on a beautiful summers eve. I think philanthropy brings about a better society not only for those who receive the love but for those who give it. Is there a greater feeling in the world than going to bed knowing you’ve made someone’s life better? If we all went to bed every night feeling that way about someone new - think of the exponential brilliance of such a simple idea.
Improve one new life a day. Make some ones day, everyday!
What advice would you give to people starting out on their own journey?
Surround yourself with the right people. That’s what the various philanthropy networks are all about. When you undertake a journey like this then you can rest assured you are going to have some lonely days, some real challenges and nothing is more awesome than being surrounded by those people you want to be inspired by. You can’t help but be pulled along in their slipstream! You can’t help but reflect other people’s awesomeness.
And get busy, it’s not going to be easy, so once you’ve taken the first step don’t stop, don’t relent until you succeed - we’re all here for you!
Follow Nick on twitter @kershaw87