Britain’s biggest donors give even more despite the recession

Britain’s biggest donors give even more despite the recession

News (UK)

In contrast to the decline in overall wealth the top 100 philanthropists on this year’s Sunday Times Rich List increased their giving by 8%. 

In total, £2.817 bn was given by those on the top 100 Giving List, £216m more than last year. This is despite the fact that the overall wealth of the 1,000 people on the Rich List has fallen by 37%, or £155 bn, in the past year.

Donors needed to give at least 4.5% of their wealth to be in the top 30, compared to 3% last year. The increase in proportion of wealth donated is not just due to falling wealth levels among philanthropists; the percentage they gave was also higher: the 30 biggest donations, irrespective of wealth, totalled £2.565 bn, 9% higher than the top 30 donations in 2008.

Christopher Cooper Hohn topped the Giving List for the second year running (he sits at 657 in the Rich List). He gave £463m to his foundation by donating fees and investments from his hedge fund, The Children’s Investment Fund (TCI). The list showed his donations were 544% of his total personal wealth of £85m.

John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, sponsors of the Giving List, said it is important that charities do not talk themselves into a giving recession. “Mechanisms such as trusts will keep the flow of cash going,” he said.

Lord Sainsbury, who was fifth on the list, invested £181m in his Gatsby Charitable Foundation this year. Lord Sainsbury has made a commitment to becoming the first Briton to give £1 bn to charity during his life. Like many on the Giving List Lord Sainsbury gives through charitable trusts; this means that money is ‘banked’ to give at a later date.

Low said, “People are continuing to give. Those who have set aside money can be giving it now … people are committed to giving and recognise a need.”

Support for some charitable organisations may hold up better than others, according to Alistair McCall, who compiled the Giving List. He said the needs of Africa would stand out despite increased need in the UK, and suggested that, “The recession may bring education more to the fore, to oil the wheels of social mobility”.

Stanley Fink, who was number 17 on the Giving List added, “People are more likely to step up and concentrate on and support a charity they already work with.”

Fink hinted at the importance that is placed on philanthropy when pressing needs are highlighted by the economy. “I took more pleasure being on the Giving List than on the Rich List this year,” he said.

Although not present on the Rich List, or the Giving List, in 2009, Sir Tom Hunter, who pledged to give £1 bn to charity in 2007, exemplifies the current commitment of Britain’s philanthropists. Despite it being a “tough year” the Hunter Foundation stands by its pledge.

So while the financial status of the wealthy has declined, the attitude to, and giving by, donors on the list appears to remain buoyant. Alistair McCall summed this up when he said this week: “Perhaps philanthropy in the UK is not facing the crisis some have been predicting.”

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