AIMA CEO Jack Inglis: Community and interconnectedness have never been more important
When AIMA CEO Jack Inglis was appointed Chair of Help for Children (HFC) in early 2020, his mandate was clear; to build awareness of the charity within the hedge fund community, and more broadly across the alternatives space. “Given the charity’s origins in the hedge fund space, and now in private equity, we want to make people aware of that. And then over time we can build a sense of connectedness and responsibility as to what the charity is doing. That’s the ultimate goal; to plant in people’s minds so that when they’re thinking of charity they consider HFC,” says Inglis.
Of course, not long after taking on the Chair position, the pandemic struck, making fundraising an almost impossible task without being able to host in-person events. “HFC globally and in the UK had been very largely reliant on fundraising via specific events,” explains Inglis. Indeed, HFC’s flagship event is its annual gala, as well as other well-known initiatives including the HFC bike ride.
So how did he steer the charity through this most challenging of times?
“We were immediately faced with not being able to host events in 2020, which left us with a number of conundrums; how to continue supporting our existing charities, as well as new charities?” says Inglis.
Thankfully, HFC’s grant making cycle is based on funds raised in the previous year, so support was available in the immediate term. “However, we also recognised that we would be unable to raise much in 2020, which would impact grants in 2021,” he explains.
One of Inglis’s first solutions was to manage the grant making process in such a way that it could extend into 2021. “I’m very pleased we were able to do that. It was really about managing and smoothing over the granting.”
“Second, we didn’t want to throw in the towel so we spent a lot of time thinking about what we could do in the UK as well as on a global level. We looked at various options including virtual events,” he says.
However, the most obvious and efficient solution was to approach previous donors. “We levelled with them. We didn’t know how successful it would be, but thankfully it did work, and that’s down to the generosity of people who knew us and the work we do,” says Inglis.
That process enabled Inglis and HFC to look at where its connections are; who has supported the charity in the past and work out how to broaden its network. “We asked how we could extend our network and not be 100% reliant on previous supporters. And that’s where we are now; campaigning to broaden awareness and how we think about the future.”
“I’m very pleased with what we’ve been able to do- in terms of making a difference last year, and this year. We’ve made grants to three new grantees that we hadn’t previously known. All in all it’s been hugely gratifying and we are hopeful to be back on track by the end of this year,” he says.
Given the timing of Inglis’ appointment to HFC chair, reaching out to previous donors and asking for more support meant leaning deeply on his network and often being put in uncomfortable positions. “Having taken on the role at the start of 2020 and then with the pandemic hitting, I did ask myself what had I let myself in for!” he confesses. “But I was more often asking myself, what can I do? How can I be proactive? That was also uncomfortable.”
To add to the discomfort, Inglis was doing all of this with a relatively unknown team. “I didn’t personally know all the local board members. I had initially planned to meet everyone in person to find out their strengths and weaknesses. Suddenly, I was working with a board I didn’t completely know, and I didn’t know how much to ask from them in terms of financial support as well as time. That wasn’t the most ideal situation; it wasn’t uncomfortable, but less than ideal.”
When it came to using his AIMA network, Inglis says it was a no brainer. “There was no hesitation to put AIMA’s resources and name behind this. It was neat to bring together the connectivity of the body and the charity.”
Indeed, HFC’s Gala is now in its 23rd year, while AIMA is celebrating its 30th anniversary. “It’s magnificent symmetry to bring that together. That link to AIMA brings HFC back to the industry,” says Inglis.
While charity fundraising efforts have suffered due to the inability to host in person events, hedge funds and the alternatives space more broadly has fared relatively well throughout the pandemic. Is there a danger the industry uses HFC as a sticking plaster for its reputational challenges?
“If you’re doing charitable endeavours to look good, that’s sad and shouldn’t be the objective,” replies Inglis. “But we all recognise that whenever we do good work it makes us feel good, and feel it’s the right thing to do.”
For Inglis, wearing his AIMA hat, there are, “many other ways I would want to tackle reputational issues.” Rather, the good work carried out by HFC is a helpful and beneficial by-product.
Furthermore, it’s important to stress that while HFC can trace its roots back to hedge funds, today it’s about building a community. “I strongly believe that people get a sense of community spirit when they’re working together for a common cause. We’re far more likely to be successful in our fundraising efforts, either via events or making donations, by working as a community. That’s really the driver here; the sense that a community coming together can be a lot more productive.”
Despite the major challenges of the last 18 months, our sense of community has been galvanised. “People like coming together as a peer group, and if they can do that on a cycling challenge or at gala dinner, that feeling of peer group interconnection is a natural human desire, and that’s been strengthened even more over the last 18 months.”
HFC has awarded $56m grants in its 23 years of existence. To find out more about the charity and its work, click here.
HFC is hosting its Annual Gala on November 18th, to book a place or to find out more, click here.