I’m American-born, and true to stereotype, have no problem talking about money. Whether Americans have a lot of it or none of it, we certainly don’t shy away from talking about it.
You can therefore imagine my bemusement at moving to Liverpool, England and becoming aware of how reticent Brits can be to talk about money, especially where I live.
Celebrating generosity in the North
As a result of my geographical location, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with northerners, trying to put my finger on why money – and what one does with it – is seen as such a private matter. For example, I would love to gather some generous givers to talk about and celebrate northern philanthropy but, when I raise the idea, it often seems to lack appeal. Often, the response also involves a sense of not wanting to do things the way they do in London, which is fair enough. Why don’t we work together to create a philanthropy community that will resonate for our region?
It's no secret that most of Stewardship’s Philanthropy Services clients are in the southeast of England. It’s where most of the money is and where most of the charities are. But I would like to take a moment to celebrate northern generosity and make a case for encouraging conversations around our personal giving. To start with, there are some impressive historical examples of affluent northerners using their wealth for tremendous good, two of which I want to highlight here.
Two powerful examples of northern philanthropy
Like many northern tradesmen and manufacturers of his time, Sir Titus Salt of Bradford amassed great wealth through his textile business. But unlike many of his peers who used their wealth to buy landed estates and join the aristocracy, he used his to build a village for his employees. We know it as Saltaire¹. This village comprised a factory, numerous shops, housing for over 4,000 people, a school, a library, a church, an infirmary, a park, and various other leisure venues. Not only did he finance the building of the village, he put proper infrastructure in place to ensure better health and sanitation for its inhabitants². Considering what we know about working and living conditions for factory workers during the Industrial Revolution, the thoughtful vision and generosity of Titus Salt is astounding!
A similar village exists on the Wirral, outside Liverpool. It’s called Port Sunlight³ and was built by William Lever. The Lever family (of what is now Unilever) owned a soap-making factory, and the village was built to house their employees and their families. Not only did the Levers build beautiful homes for their workers, they also introduced welfare schemes, provided education, encouraged recreation and promoted the arts and sciences⁴. What a generous and holistic way to practice profit-sharing!
These families couldn’t have done the work they did quietly and privately. Large-scale generosity requires collaboration, making noise, and gathering diverse actors into a room to share heart and ideas. In South East England there is a plethora of networks and events that seek to bring philanthropists together. Such gatherings are inevitably likelier to result in increased collaboration and horizontal movement simply because people find themselves in a room together.
A vision for philanthropy in the North
What could be possible in the North if we gathered with intentionality to share heart and ideas around generosity and impact?! What kind of initiatives could be born? What kind of impact would a philanthropic investment have on the social entrepreneur trying to start viable businesses that employ some of the most marginalised in our society? What kind of projects could be scaled if the people running a small charity connected with a group of resourced Christians over cake and coffee? How much more could God use us for His Kingdom purposes if we were eager to share testimony and hear from others?
Let’s work together
It's a cliché, but only because it’s true: we are better together as it is together that we create impact for God’s Kingdom. If you would like to help me build a supportive network for philanthropists in the North of England, please get in contact.
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