For our Leader Series this month we spoke to Roberta d’Eustachio the Founder and Editor in Chief of Giving Magazine, a monthly digital magazine that connects philanthropists and social investors around the world with content about charities, causes and giving. We discussed Roberta’s career in philanthropy and giving, her future projects with Facebook and the influence of social media.
Interview by Stephanie van de Werve, Communications and Marketing Manager at Aleron

Roberta d’Eustachio & evolution of Giving Magazine

Aleron: Can you tell a little bit about your background and past experiences and how they influence the work that you do today?

 Roberta: Awhile back, I inherited a classical music festival when a dear friend was tragically killed in a motor accident, shortly after the first season ended.  Someone needed to carry the festival on, fundraise and lead, though I had not the faintest idea of what that meant, not to mention how to do it.

That experience changed my life personally and professionally.  I had to stand – not just in my own shoes advancing an artistic vision – but in those of the audience, each and every one of them, out of which, were the potential supporters and major donors to keep the festival alive. What did they need?  Want?

My obsession with donor’s issues was born then and there, which led to the founding of The American Benefactor magazine, the USA’s first publication for philanthropists, and now the global Giving Magazine + Facebook Instant Articles.

Aleron: What led to the creation of Giving Magazine + Facebook Instant Articles and what is its mission.

 Roberta: Last year our digital launch edition of Giving Magazine, reached millions of philanthropists, in 44 countries, but we knew we could do more.  We knew we had to do more, as our swelling readership worldwide was migrating to mobile for their news and, well, everything else. An immediate pivot was required or we’d be so yesterday, as they say. And we couldn’t have that.

Desire met opportunity and Giving Magazine teamed up with Facebook Instant Articles, making our social ambition not only possible but also transforming.

With this new partnership we could reach a vast, multi-generational, mobile audience with philanthropy stories of every kind and across every category, algorithmically able to reach those individuals that might be predisposed to its bespoke content.

Our new tagline became: Giving Magazine – for everyone, everywhere.

Aleron: Can you tell us about your team at Giving Magazine and how did you go about choosing it?

Roberta:  I have been creating content from the philanthropist’s point of view for over twenty years and had good relationships with journalists and idea drivers from all over the world.  The ideas were endless and getting them turned into stories was, well, easy.  But delivering that content was now, in our time, technically driven and in constant change.

We were lucky to attract a Philadelphian, named Brian Lipscomb, who became our Chief Technologist and was able to take on any challenge without blinking an eye.  A true genius.

Aleron: How did the work you did as Chief-of-Staff for Dame Stephanie Shirley, when she was named The British Government’s Founding Ambassador of Philanthropy 2009-2010, relate to the work you do as Editor-in-Chief of Giving Magazine + Facebook Instant Articles?

Roberta: Dame Stephanie and I at the time of her appointment had been working together, on and off, for more than a decade, some times her projects, some times mine.  She called one morning and said that she had an request from then Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office: would she be interested in taking on this ‘volunteer’ philanthropy position. There was no budget, so she would have to fund it, which she was willing to do. Then she asked me: might I join her, be her strategist, her ‘chief of staff.  My answer was: I’m booking a Virgin flight now.  (I was living in the USA at the time.)

Roberta d'Eustachio Illustration

Roberta d’Eustachio is an entrepreneur obsessed with delivering media from the philanthropist’s point of view. That desire led her to found The American Benefactor magazine, and recently, the global-digital Giving Magazine, which has launched to social investor readers everywhere.

Ms d’Eustachio has consulted with, and/or received investment from, leading global brands, including: The Economist, the Financial Times, EuroMoney/Institutional Investor, the Pitcairn Private Bank and Fidelity Capital, the venture arm of Fidelity Investments.  She is a frequent guest speaker on multiple aspects of the donor’s journey worldwide.

In 2009, Dame Stephanie Shirley invited Ms d’Eustachio – who had been advising her on strategic giving for more than a decade – to become her Chief-of-staff, when she was appointed Ambassador for Philanthropy by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Giving magazine

Follow Roberta on Twitter @deustachio and read more at givingmagazine.com

It was the late winter of 2009, a dark time globally with the world in a frantic economic downturn.

Dame Stephanie and I put our heads together and came up with a theme of giving ‘philanthropists a voice’.  At the time, donors themselves were not all that open or vocal about why they did what they did when they ‘gave’ or ‘made social investments’, not wanting to be seen as bragging or showing off or some such.  However, we found that if donors don’t express their belief in why they support this cause or that one, nobody knows.  A modernization needed to occur in philanthropy, was needed, and talking publicly about the lessons in personal giving was a start.

So I began ‘video casting’ philanthropists, of all ages, talking about their experiences and putting it up on the “Ambassadors’ website. From there we started getting inquires from countries everywhere, asking us to come to help them create or, as in some cases, reboot an ancient culture of giving.

The philanthropist voice idea had been heard. And soon after that, I returned to my obsession of delivering media from the philanthropist/social investor’s point of view and reimagined Giving Magazine and the impact it could have in an ever expanding digital content world.

You can read Dame’s Stephanie’s personal story “Ambassadors for Philanthropy?” at http://givingmagazine.com/launch/idea_030.html

Philanthropy & Social Media

Aleron: Do you think social media is transforming philanthropy? If so, how?

Roberta: Yes, I do think that social media is leveling the playing field for orgs of all kinds, big/small, in getting their story out. But the quality and the creativity of how to do so is still in its early days. The challenge now is not only to speak to those who are following you, and incrementally gain further followers, but how to deepen
and expand that reach and turn those followers into supporters.

Aleron: Can you tell us about your upcoming partnership with Facebook on Instant Articles.

Roberta: As mentioned above, when we realized the digital Giving Magazine had the opportunity to expand our reach from ‘millions in 44 countries’ to ‘billions everywhere’ we pivoted.

And how.

Facebook had developed the new “Instant Articles” which distributes a publisher’s branded stories instantly in its mobile newsfeed. No more waiting time while a news site loads. Just tap when you see the lightening bolt image in the upper right hand corner of an Instant Article and ‘ta da’, it’s there. Facebook’s extensive testing proved that its 1.6 billion+ mobile users spend considerable time with Instant Articles, time that could easily be spent with Giving Magazine stories, and this was just what we dreamed, and now we could make that happen.

Giving Magazine joins a host of vetted publishers who have joined FB Instant Articles, including BBC News, National Geographic, Spiegel Online, The Washington Post, Tech Crunch, The Guardian & a slew of global media brands. We are delighted to be part of this innovation, and will soon deliver every kind of social impact/philanthropy story across all categories and country regions, to include Giving’s own original reporting, including yours and those of our Founding Members.

All we needed was an unlimited number of great (philanthropy) stories. And we knew where to get them – from our global network of causes, foundations, social businesses, associations, CSR companies, donor-advised funds, individual philanthropists and influencers.

Which means, starting mid May 2016, we will invite orgs, CSR/companies and thought leaders around the world to join us a Founding Members and get an unlimited number of their great stories streamed out to billions everywhere, all under the Giving Magazine + Facebook Instant Articles brand. To sign up go to: givingmagazine.com

Future of Philanthropy

Aleron: You’ve been invited to give speeches and act as an advisor across the world; are there major differences between the challenges to philanthropy in different parts of the world?

Roberta: Every country has both a history and an ever changing and ever adaptive culture of giving, especially now with technology tearing down walls and influencing everything. The one major area that still needs a lot of work is the creation and implementation of tax policies that incentivize giving. Those countries that step up and incorporate such policies for giving, across all income levels, will be the winners. Even China, in the last month, has introduced tax policies that they expect will motivate the new wealth creators there to socially invest, becoming role models for their entrepreneurial peers and others around the world. A very good thing.

Aleron: What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in this field?

Roberta: At age twenty I founded a modern dance studio, then went on to get my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing – poetry and playwriting, and taught at university and wrote/produced plays. While some would say, likely most, that that experience does not directly relate or prepare you to enter the wide berth of philanthropy. I would beg to differ. And highly recommend to all, anyone, to do what you want. Have a vision and do it, regardless of the obstacles, or that anybody understands what you are doing. Go where the passion takes you, dig in and learn something, change stuff, upset the apple cart. And always be ready to pivot. Dance.
Yeah.