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Beverly Chandler

Coutts’ Donor Report finds upward trend in large scale philanthropy

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The latest Coutts Million Pound Donor Report finds that 298 donations, each worth GBP1 million or more, with a total value of GBP1.56 billion, were made to charitable causes or ‘banked’ in foundations in 2014.

 The 15 per cent increase in the mean value to GBP5.3 million, suggests an upward trend in large scale philanthropy. Additionally, the number of donations of GBP1 million or more is the highest ever recorded since the report was first produced in 2008. 
 
These are the findings of the eighth edition of the Coutts Million Pound Donors Report, produced in association with the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, which tracks the number, size, scale, and destination of GBP1 million plus donations made by individuals, foundations and corporations in the UK.   
 
The report finds that, as in previous years, higher education and foundations were the main destinations for million pound donations, together attracting over two-thirds of the total value. In 2014, foundations received the largest share of donations – 36 per cent, while higher education institutions received five out of the ten largest donations, each worth at least GBP26 million.
 
A total of 35 universities were identified as receiving donations of a million pounds or more, with the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge receiving at least 11 and ten respectively. However, the report finds that UK philanthropy is not limited to the Oxbridge universities; eight non-Oxbridge universities also received more than one donation, and collected eight of the 12 gifts of GBP10 million or more to this category, with University College London receiving at least two gifts of this type. 
 
London retained its status as the centre of UK philanthropy, producing the vast majority of million pound donations with 192 donations from 74 different donors. Donors based in the capital accounted for just over two thirds of the total value, equating to GBP1.05 billion.
 
Together with those from the South East, this accounted for just under three-quarters of the total value of the million pound donations last year.
   
Some 13 donations came from donors based in the North West, and the same number originated from the North East, comprising 6.5 per cent and 2 per cent respectively of the total value.
 
International donors also played an important role in UK philanthropy with the second largest donation of the year, GBP60 million, coming from a donor based in the United Arab Emirates. Donations from corporations continued to recover from their decline in 2012 and far exceeded any previous contributions, the report finds. In 2014 the total value given by corporations increased by almost eight percentage points to nearly 23 per cent of the overall value given in the UK.
 
The UK findings form part of the wider Coutts Million Dollar Donor Report, which is an authority on major philanthropy internationally covering the USA, Russia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Middle East (GCC), South Africa, India and the UK. This multinational report tracked a total of USD24.5 billion donations of USD1 million or more.
 
Lenka Setkova, Executive Director, Coutts Institute says: “The eighth annual Coutts Million Pound Donors Report illustrates that major philanthropy continues to grow and thrive in the UK as the total amount given increased by GBP200 million and the number of donations was the highest we have ever recorded. The high proportion of funds given to charitable trusts and foundations indicates that major donors are continuing to organise their giving for the longer term. But this report is about much more than data. As illustrated by the inspiring interviews with major philanthropists, it shows that there has never been a more exciting time for philanthropy as donors look to achieve their goals not just through giving grants, but through leveraging other assets including their time, networks or expertise – and in some cases, through how consideration is given to environmental, social, environmental or ethical factors in the investment of endowments”.
 
Dr Beth Breeze from the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent co-author of the UK report says: "In this eighth year of tracking data on million pound donations, it is exciting to find the highest-ever total number of seven-figure donations, and to see the total value return to levels last seen before the financial crash. It seems clear that donors’ confidence is recovering, and that charities are trusted to make good use of significant sums, despite the recent torrent of negative media headlines about fundraising practices. Much of that debate has failed to appreciate the difference between mass-marketing aimed at ‘high volume, low-value donors’, and the very different approach used to build personalised, authentic, and mutually beneficial relationships with those who have the capacity and the inclination to make major donations.
 
We should therefore acknowledge and celebrate the role that the fundraising profession has played in encouraging and supporting ‘million pound donors’. We need to encourage – not deter – talented people from considering fundraising as a career. Having well-trained and trusted people that are willing to make a compelling ‘ask’ for  seven-figure sums, enables more charities and their beneficiaries, to benefit from the major donors."

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