A number of asset managers have recently demonstrated interest in expanding their media activities to reach the charity ecosystem. To better serve their needs, JPES Partners carried out a survey of editors and senior journalists at charity trade titles to understand the topics that are currently capturing the attention of financial decision makers in the sector.

Compared to the pensions market, charities’ investment portfolios make up a small segment of the UK institutional investment landscape. September 2023 statistics from the Charity Commission for England and Wales put the current total of long-term investments by charities at £178 billion.

In contrast, the Thinking Ahead Institute’s 2023 Global Pension Assets Study calculated the pension assets for the UK in 2022 at USD $2.5 trillion (roughly £2.1 trillion). Comparatively, the Association of British Insurers cites £1.8 trillion as the size of the UK insurance investment market.

According to Newton Investment Management’s 2022 Charity Investment Survey, of the 91 charities spoken to, 66% had assets of under £20m, 27% were between £21m and £100m, 4% were between £101m and £500m, and only 3% were over £501m.

The UK charities media landscape is also limited in scope itself, with only six charities-focused media titles also covering issues around charities’ investment portfolios.

Several key themes emerged from our survey. The most prominent issue raised by editors and senior journalists at charities trade titles was the relationship between ESG and charities’ investment portfolios.

The journalists we surveyed particularly emphasised that the environmental and social aspects of charities’ investments are crucial to address moving forward. That said, on social factors, Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) also emerged as a rising matter of prominence within the charities’ investment space.

Respondents concurred that not only was the asset management industry insufficiently tackling issues around ESG and DEI, but communication with the charities sector on these topics was lacking. Those surveyed also reported that investment solutions tended to be insufficiently tailored to the charities sector, and the quantity and nuance of communication on ESG-related issues was falling short.

One interviewee took this further, stating, “The ESG system is not really fit for purpose at the moment.” He suggested that in order to tailor ESG-related solutions to the charities sector, asset managers may have to innovate beyond the traditional categories of ‘environmental’ and ‘social’ concerns and look at other areas which bridge the two areas, or fall outside of them, such as ethical investing.

From the interviews conducted, it was clear trustees and executives at charities were unhappy with the quality of ESG and DEI-related communication from the investment industry. Even when these concerns were tackled, they were not always being tailored to the specific needs and nuances of the charities sector.

These are just a few of the considerations that emerged from our survey. To read the full report on themes of interest to UK charities, please get in touch with JPES Partners.