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Number of million pound donors down 15% on last year

Number of million pound donors down 15% on last year

News

The number of donors giving a million pounds or more fell by 15% from 201 to 174 and the amount given dropped from £1.5bn in 2008/9 to £1.3bn in 2009/10, according to the annual Coutts Million Pound Donor Report.

Senior philanthropy advisor at Coutts & Co Maya Prabhu says: “We believe these figures are consistent with other studies in both the UK and the US, and reflect the general sentiment of nervousness in the economy, and falls in wealth that followed the banking crisis in 2008.”

The annual report tracks size, scale and recipients of donations worth £1m or more from individuals, trusts and corporations. It found that individual philanthropists remain the highest contributors, giving 60% of the total.

The report is produced in association with Kent University’s Centre for Philanthropy. Researcher and report author Dr Beth Breeze says: “Over the four years of conducting this study, individuals have given £6bn. With individuals giving more than half of this year’s amount, there is some heavy lifting being done by major donors.”

She also points out that individual philanthropists in the UK are proving to be more consistently generous than their counterparts in the US. “There is an interesting contrast with the US, where giving by individuals has dropped significantly from $13bn dollars in 2008 to $4bn in 2010.”

However, she pointed out that there seemed to be a glass ceiling with many people not giving more than a million when actually they could give more. The report found that as in previous years, the most frequent size of donation is exactly £1m, indicating that giving a million has both economic and psychological significance for donors, and is the size of gift that establishes a donor among the ‘top rank’ of UK philanthropists.

Overall half the total value of donations (48%) was ‘banked’ in foundations rather than given directly to charities in 2009/10. This is an increase from 36% in 2008/9.

The report also shows that higher education remained the most popular destination for large gifts. Dr Breeze says the results show the impact of the matched funding scheme towards higher education which started in 2009 but ends this year. She suggests that the arts may experience a similar uplift following the launch in July 2011 of the government’s £55m matched funding scheme.

International development has become increasingly popular among individual donors with an increase from £53m in 2008/9 to £143m in 2009/10.

A trend that we highlighted in our latest magazine has also been illustrated in this report. Dr Breeze pointed out that there is an increased preference for local giving with philanthropists focusing on an area where they live or come from originally. One of the case studies in the report is Mary Cornish, who has concentrated her giving in Yorkshire. Dr Breeze says: “Doing it in your own back yard makes philanthropy more enjoyable and accessible.”

Cornish set up the The Brelms Trust in 2007 with an endowment of £2.6m inherited from her father. She had worked in social services in areas of huge disadvantage in York and Sheffield. Her father was an entrepreneur who gave haphazardly to good causes, so when he died, Cornish decided to spend the money strategically in areas where she knew the money would be needed. She says: “We focus on smaller organisations embedded in their communities because they can do a lot with sums which would make very little difference to a big charity.” In terms of the geographical choice, Cornish says the trustees decided it was “a lot tidier and a lot more personal to us if we restricted it to the county where we lived and worked”.

To download the report for free click here

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