Almost 2,000 years ago, the Roman emperor Vespasian told his son that ‘pecunia non olet’, or ‘money doesn’t stink’. How right he was. Nowadays, enormous sums are moved around digitally, leaving no trace. And yet, this statement may well be more controversial at the moment than ever, particularly for charities. It starts with the donations they receive: should a charity accept a donation from anyone, no matter how the money was earned? We can all agree that the answer is no. This question is a little trickier: if you have money, should you also ask what money is allowed to do?
The topic of ‘sustainability’ is now something that charities consider when investing their funds, and it has really taken off. Charities are in a particularly exposed position because of their non-profit status. Reputation is no longer the only thing at stake: nowadays, sustainability criteria can play a role in an investment’s valuation. What should a charity be allowed to do with its money? It’s a challenging question to answer. Despite negative interest rates and the social pressure to make sustainable investments, many charities need to preserve their wealth, and, in fact, have to generate a profit to fulfil their purpose. It is a tricky dilemma that doesn’t always have a satisfactory outcome.
In this issue, you can read fascinating reflections on finance that will (hopefully!) give you plenty of food for thought.
I hope that reading it is an inspiring experience! Peter Buss