An Interview With Àngel Font Of La Caixa Banking Foundation
Thanks to Mr. Àngel Font, the corporate director of Strategy and Research at “la Caixa” Banking Foundation for being interviewed:
1- ”la Caixa” Banking Foundation has gone through some important changes and it is now among the most prominent foundations in the world: how is your strategy evolving and how do you consider the foundation’s role in the global philanthropy ecosystem?
For more than 110 years, ”la Caixa” has contributed to the progress of society and to the well-being of people, particularly those most in need.
”la Caixa” Banking Foundation is the result of the transformation in 2014 of the Caja de Ahorros y Pensiones de Barcelona, ”la Caixa”, into a banking foundation following the restructuring of the Spanish financial system.
Today the ”la Caixa” Banking Foundation controls Criteria CaixaHolding, the company that in turn owns shareholdings in CaixaBank and different industrial and real estate companies.
The transformation has served to adapt the entity to the regulations in the new market reality but also to maintain and reinforce the social commitment to which it has always remained faithful.
“la Caixa” Banking Foundation is the leading foundation in Spain and among the 10 most important in the world.
It manages an annual budget of 510 million euros to carry out activities in social programmes, research programmes and dissemination of culture and education.
The main priorities for the period 2016-2019 are:
- to focus our areas of activity in order to increase our impact
- to improve our efficiency and quality standards and to encourage the development of talent
- and to standardise the measurement and evaluation of our activities.
Efficiency, quality and the pursue of excellence are established at the design, execution and results of all our lines of action.
2- You will be hosting the next WINGS International Meeting of Funders of Philanthropy Infrastructure in March 2018. Why is it important to have a peer conversation about strengthening the philanthropy ecosystem? What are you expecting for this meeting?
We are very pleased to host the next WINGS International Meeting at CaixaForum Barcelona. We consider this will be a great opportunity to discuss with the “WINGS family” about how we can all together better contribute to ultimately benefit civil society as a whole.
The philanthropy ecosystem is composed by organisations committed to peace, justice and the dignity of people and it is very important that, together, we can tackle the underlying causes of emerging problems and create systemic changes. Just as our slogan says: “changing lives, building futures”.
We strongly believe that we have an increasingly important role to play on the international agenda. Both through the funds that we can provide but also, very remarkably, through other available resources.
Resources such as expertise, corporate volunteers, capacity of advocacy and sharing best practices.
Private Foundations are autonomous, flexible, innovative and able to take some risks. All this makes us catalysts, facilitating multi-agents partnerships and building bridges between the corporations and civil society organizations.
For all these reasons we expect to share a common vision and perspective of the needs and opportunities of the philanthropy ecosystem at the meeting in Barcelona.
3- What successes, challenges and/or gaps do you see in Spain, Europe and/or at the global level in regards to supporting philanthropy development?
Still today there are important needs in our society, arising from a difficult economic context for many sectors of the population, and it is therefore necessary to solve all the challenges that allow us to further progress.
We need to develop new solutions to the real problems in the coming years taking into account the growing trend of social awareness, the transformation of the third social sector, the social economy and the digitalization of society.
These are important opportunities for us and they will increasingly take a relevant place in the economic, social and political sphere of Spain and the European Union.
In Spain, most companies are increasing their contribution to CSR. Regarding individuals, recent researches confirm that 9.5 million citizens (24%) donate to at least one NGO and 12% of them are members of an NGO, which is an increase of 4 points compared to the 2014 report.
These are very positive results and actually better results than ever. However, unfortunately, we are still far from the levels of collaboration in other European countries, so we must continue working to try to increase this figure.
4-Generally, what do you think are the biggest challenges funders face when funding the field of support for philanthropy? (Evaluating impact, board consensus to fund, etc.)?
We need to focus on those programs which can generate the greatest impact to guarantee that we distribute the resources we have available in the most effective way possible.
We must also guide our actions according to the results of the evaluation, placing efficacy and impact before all other considerations.
Excellence and efficiency will therefore be the cross-cutting ideas in all stages of our programmes’ implementation.
That is because above all, at the other end of each one of our decisions there are people, often very vulnerable people, who rely on us and our work to improve their situation.
5- Do you have a story/lesson/antidote you could share to the WINGS Network about the importance of collaboration?
A great asset of “la Caixa” Banking Foundation is the magnitude of its reach, with 15 own programmes, some decentralized activities implemented around the country and a series of activities that are carried out through institutional or corporate agreements.
We are promoting more than 50.000 activities which reach more than 10 million beneficiaries every year. All this would not be possible without our national and international partners.
We often refer to an old African saying to explain how we work.
It says “If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far, then, go with others.”
This is something we apply in all our activities with the main stakeholders involved encouraging a collaborative methodology rather than supporting isolated projects.
One example is the Business Alliance for Child Vaccination that we promoted in 2008 from “la Caixa” Foundation with Gavi the Vaccine Alliance. This is an initiative that offers companies, mostly clients of CaixaBank, the opportunity to collaborate in the fight against child mortality as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. In addition, this initiative is supported by contributions made by private individuals, employees and individual clients of the entity.
”la Caixa” Foundation and also the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, quadruple contributions from the private sector through its Matching Fund program. 1×4 Campaign, intensifying efforts and enabling more children to receive vaccines. Since 2008, the total donations to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, have been 24,5 million euros coming from “la Caixa” Banking Foundation and donations from companies, employees and individuals.