Inside the Minds of Donors (Part III): Portrait of a Donor – Peter Kulloi

In the fall of 2011, a friendly reference brought me an invitation to two-day workshop on philanthropy in Hungary and opportunity to meet a remarkable person: Peter Kulloi, businessman  and philanthropists. Peter’s background sounds pretty simple: he was an investment banker, first in Budapest then in London. He retired at the age of 40 and became involved in philanthropy, both as a founder of the non-profit foundation but also as a supporter/Board member of number of non-profit initiatives and causes.

Peter made deep impression on me – firstly, because he had some very interesting observations on philanthropy, charities, fundraising, but also because he was/is the first person that I’ve met that said – “I’ve earned enough money! Now I want to give it back!”

This post brings some of Peter’s thoughts on giving, non-profits, philanthropy:

Peter’s motivation for giving

Peter’s motivation for giving is personal and cannot be connected with just one reason (just as it was discussed in couple of previous posts about reasons for giving). He says:

Upbringing is very important: I was raised in the family in which my parents believed that one cannot live the life earning, but that it is very important to give; so, my plan was always to give back. Personally, I  don’t believe that you can have any relation that you can be only on receiving end – you have to be on the giving end as well. This is especially important for us in CEE countries, in which we were told that state is going to solve everything.

Finally, I also think that it is dangerous to believe that everything is down to us – there is an element of luck in any success. I believe that I was lucky and that my duty is to give those less fortunate.”

Why start his own charity and not give to those who already exist?

When starting a charity Peter had an idea to fund those who already had some programs, but… “I started a charity with two childhood friends of mine; we said – here we are and started to look for those who need money. However, it soon became clear that there are not enough charities that work professionally: strategically, with business plan, in accountable and transparent way. So, we ended up starting more and more of our own programs…”

 How does Peter motivate others?

Today, Peter is a Chairman of the Board of Bator Tabor Alapitvany; this charity has income from very diversified pool of donors – both individual and corporate donors, small and large donations… Peter, as a Board member spends significant amount of time in fundraising. How does he motivate people to give? Of course, being a business man he certainly has a lot of contacts – but this is not the only factor: “I motivate by example! But in the same time it is very important to find ways for people to enjoy giving and to – keeping in mind that developing a charity is developing a brand – bring the cause closer to them.”

What would be Peter’s recommendation to other non-profits?

“It seems to me that charities are acting a lot like politics – they rely on emotions. Businesses operate differently: we  identify problem, analyze it and make plans how to solve it. When we started, we had this camp for children which is really big: it’s 600 children and lot of volunteers, so we made a strategic plan AND a business plan. So non-profits have to start thinking more business-like – both with strategy and business plan.” 

“The other factor that I’ve already mentioned is about building a brand: we needed to communicate our cause to the public. We used creative agencies to help us do that – creative fundraising programs, Facebook page (now it has 27,000 supporters). Non-profits need to use professionals to help them attract people, because professionals have know-how.”

“Finally, it is important to think about sustainability, which can be achieved only by individual giving. If you have 10,000 people that’ll give you $2 per month, that’s sustainable. And that goes back to importance of building a brand that’ll attract so many supporters”.

How would Peter go about developing philanthropy in the region?

“Well, firstly, it would be important to establish credibility in charity sector. It would be good to actually develop/have an institution that witness your credibility that is can filter those that are not credible ones.

Secondly, we need couple of good examples – if you have one successful to promote, that will attract others. It would help also to have champions for giving, for philanthropic giving – to make giving ‘cool’!

Finally, branding, branding, branding!”

How does Peter, as a donor, choose between charities?

Occasionally, Peter still gives to other causes and charities. So, how he makes a decision?

“It’s a business instinct. Charity that I will give to has to be credible, professional and to understand the importance of business plan in the strategy. Also, I don’t look for charities to support anymore – so that is why it is important that they have a champion – someone who believes in their cause. So I would also look who is their champion and if I do believe in them and in their ability to push things forward.”

Posts here can provide just a limited amount of information; personally, I believe – from talks that I had with Peter during workshop and later, that we – from non-profit background – can learn a lot from him on strategy, fundraising and philanthropy development in general. And I do hope that there will be an opportunity to bring Peter for a workshop or just for a talk here in the region!

But at the end, I just want to share one more thing: at the workshop, intrigued by Peter’s statement I’ve earned enough money (honestly, never heard that before) I just had to ask him about that. His answer was: “What enough means depends on the person – because ultimately, it is about ego, not about the actual amount of money.” It was quite fascinating for me, because when I hear people talk about earning it’s always about amounts. So, I couldn’t help but wonder if the decision to engage in philanthropy is something like that: people often say that they don’t give because they don’t have enough money; however, when you think about it, isn’t engaging in philanthropic giving really about our personal decision to give, not about the amount of money that we can donate?   

Peter Kulloi is the founder of Mosoly Foundation, Chairman of Bator Tabor foundation, Board member of the Hole in the Wall Association in the US, Board member of Common Purpose Charitable Trust in the UK and Board member of Barretstown in Ireland.

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Aleksandra Vesic