There is Real Good to be Done

Expert opinion

Each May a report is published on our nation’s wealthiest, which includes the Sunday Times Giving List. The Giving List, prepared in collaboration with the Charity Aid Foundation, highlights the philanthropic generosity of the year’s 25 largest donors. These outstanding philanthropists deserve enormous credit for their commitment, donating over 10% of their assets during the year contributing £1.7 billion to good causes.

Closer reading however highlights a less rosy picture in terms of charitable giving by the majority of Britain’s richest. For example, among the nation’s 1,000 wealthiest, who are estimated to have total wealth of over £658 billion, there were only 55 individuals donating at least £10 million. The Giving Pledge, which invites the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will, has only been signed by a handful of Britain’s wealthiest, including Richard Branson, Jonathan Ruffer and David Sainsbury.

Calls for Britain’s rich to give more continue however to be voiced. In the wake of the breakdown of consensus in society over the benefits of globalisation, the wealthiest are being challenged to consider how they use their wealth. Interviewed in Spear's Magazine, former UK politician and NGO leader David Milliband added his voice to the drumbeat of those calling for the wealthiest to step up to the challenge by shunning excess and supporting charitable causes at home and abroad. ‘Charity is not a substitute for government…but there is real good to be done’, Milliband argues.

Against the backdrop of an economically polarised society, arguably the debate is just beginning regarding what should be considered as a morally acceptable level of giving. In this context, the nation’s richest can ask what they wish their legacy to be.  

This blog was first published on LinkedIn by Grant Gordon.