Supporting individuals

Some people like to include the support of individuals in the portfolio of their charitable giving. Making a difference to individual lives is one of the most rewarding aspects of philanthropy, and the specific support of individuals among the most satisfying donations.

Supporting individuals might include subsidising doctors from developing countries to train for a year in the UK, or funding young sportspeople—usually those involved in activities in which the donor also has an interest. The provision of scholarships at schools and universities is traditional area of funding, and support of the arts is a frequent focus.

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Finding individuals to support
In virtually every case money is not donated directly to individuals without the intervention of an intermediary organisation that helps identify and select potential beneficiaries and monitors how the money is spent and accounted for. In some cases the donor will have no influence on the recipient, but in other cases the donor may be provided with a list of possibilities and able to choose a project that fires his or her imagination. In a few cases the donor may initiate the process and help select recipients, as a panel member

Some cultural organisations, usually in the performing arts, encourage the involvement of individual donors by associating them with the training of young artists or the support of established musicians – whether singers or players. Examples include the Chair Sponsorship scheme at the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, which links donors, individual players and the orchestra as a whole, promoting strong networks between donors who enjoy sharing a passion for the orchestra and the music it performs.

Some donors may never meet the beneficiaries of their philanthropy. There is the example of child sponsorship schemes, such as that run by ActionAid, in which the money given is pooled for the benefit of the community as a whole, and the child is essentially an ambassador or representative of that community.

Supporting individual enterprise
Another way to change the lives not only of individuals but also of whole communities is to support social entrepreneurs – extraordinary individuals with unprecedented ideas for change in their communities. An example is Ashoka, which identifies and supports Fellows who are ‘practical visionaries’ committed to systemic social change in their field. Such entrepreneurs provide new opportunities and better lives for their fellow citizens.

In the UK The Prince’s Trust provides a wide range of opportunities for disadvantaged youngsters. One element is the support of young people through microfinance and associated business expertise. Another example is the website Prowess, a network of organisations and individuals throughout the country who provide financial and non-financial support to disadvantaged women seeking to start their own businesses.

Microfinance, or microcredit, is also seen as a major tool in international development. Programmes provide credit and other financial assistance, as well as business training and networking opportunities, to economically active poor people. Such people typically are outside the banking system and at the mercy of money-lenders who charge exorbitant rates. Average loan sizes from microfinance organisations are small (sometimes as little as £50) and repayment rates as high as 97%. Most clients are women. Such loans create jobs and, crucially, help people to help themselves. Many international NGOs have such programmes. An example in this field is Opportunity International.

Benevolent funds
For nearly every profession there is an associated benevolent fund that provides help to individuals who have fallen on hard times. Such funds may be supported by those who have done well in the profession, such as the law (e.g., the Barristers’ Benevolent Association), or by those who have enjoyed the pleasure of the sport (e.g., the Injured Jockeys Fund) or the art form (e.g., the Musicians Benevolent Fund).


A version of this article, written by Theresa Lloyd, was published in a previous edition of A Guide to Giving (2008).  

Glossary: microfinance, social entrepreneursip