Special Magic Circle: 60 seconds with Anna Josse, Prism the Gift Fund

Date: 18 May 2022

Silvia Ricciardi

Anna Josse, Prism the Gift Fund

Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.

I am CEO and co-founder of Prism the Gift Fund (Prism). I established Prism having set up the British arm of an American charity in the 1990s during which I learnt a lot from the Americans about major donor fundraising and Donor Advised Funds (DAFs). Apart from a large government body, they didn’t really exist in the UK and so in early 2000s I started a year and half of research to look at structures and prospective clients before setting up Prism in 2005.

Prism is a UK registered charity. We administer the charitable giving of U/HNW individuals, groups, foundations and corporates, giving significantly to causes all over the world. At the end of our financial year in June 2021, we had a donation income of £80m and distributed £53m globally and we currently have c£180m in assets under management.  We also run Collective Funds as well as DAFs. Collective Funds allow a lead donor to raise money for a cause from a number of donors. We are unique in the market in terms of our model, our target market, our ethos and our entrepreneurial flair and spirit that runs throughout the organisation.

You won again, as ‘Philanthropy Advisor of the year’ at the Magic Circle Awards 2022. What does it mean to you to have won this award for two years in a row?

I’m so excited to have won again this year. It’s such a great recognition of the development and importance of philanthropy alongside the other private client categories. And I’m honoured to have been considered amongst such talented individuals included in the Magic Circle award categories.

What is the biggest challenge you and your firm are currently facing in your sector?

The main challenges have been the speed of growth of Prism in such a short time. We are a lean operation but in the past year, we’ve hired six people and implemented new systems and ways of working to be able to continue providing the high level of service for our increasing number of clients.

Prism has been recognised for its excellence in due diligence, governance and compliance when distributing donations, but it is challenging to keep pace with the changes in charitable law and regulations. We often acquire legal advice on donation requests where the law is not always clear cut or simple and our donors respect the need for us to do so. It’s critical that all distributions are carried out with the highest standards of governance and compliance.

What are the most important skills and personal qualities for a Philanthropy Advisor?

The ability to listen and understand people is important. Communication is crucial to be able to navigate clients and charities. Having knowledge about the regulatory backdrop and how that may impact on the wishes of clients, is also now a really necessary skill. The ability to persuade and guide and balance the two are useful attributes too.

Best and worst parts of your job.?

Meeting fascinating individuals from many different backgrounds is wonderful. This combined with a fast paced, always changing and so always challenging environment means one must always be thinking ahead, nimble and flexible. Those are the good bits most of the time! And the worst, dealing with a regulatory backdrop that is not as good or as efficient as it needs to be. This can cause problems for the sector.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?

Listen to people, understand their expectations. Be clear on how to meet them. And if the two are aligned, you will generally succeed. And always strive to be the best you can be.

Anna Josse is a member of our Leaders List.

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