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  1. Wealth
December 10, 2012

Coutts: Million-pound donations hit five-year high, though total falls to new low

By Spear's

The annual Coutts Million Pound Donor Report, released today and produced in association with the University of Kent, has found a record total of 232 separate ‘million pound or more’ philanthropic donations made by individuals, trusts and corporations in the UK during 20010/11

Latest Coutts £1m + Philanthropy report finds ‘significant’ increase in number of million pound philanthropic donors in the UK

232 donations worth £1m or more – highest level in five years

A higher proportion (60%) of million pound donations was given directly to operational charities, and just 40% was placed into charitable trusts, indicating a potential shift towards getting philanthropic money out onto the front-line

However, total value of £1.241 billion is lowest level in five years

Higher Education, Arts and Culture and International Development remain the most popular destinations for these largest gifts

A total of over £7 billion has been donated by ‘million pound donors’ in the past five years from 2006/7 to 2010/11

London. The annual Coutts Million Pound Donor Report, released today and produced in association with the University of Kent, has found a record total of 232 separate ‘million pound or more’ philanthropic donations made by individuals, trusts and corporations in the UK during 20010/11.

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This is the largest total identified by the report in any one year since the study began in 2008, up by 58 donations compared to last year. There has also been a big increase in the number of million pound donors, with 130 different donors identified; up from 73 the previous year (this includes individuals, charitable trusts, foundations and corporations, some of whom made more than one donation worth £1 million or more).

The total value of these donations was £1.241 billion. This is lower than the total value recorded in previous years, down from £1.312 billion in last year’s report, which covered donations made in 2009/10.

Read more: Philanthropic donations falls by 20% in 2011/12

More than half of the million pound donations made in 2010/11 were donated by 93 individual donors, with a total value of £763 million. Living individuals therefore continue to be the most significant source of the largest donations.

The Coutts report also finds that despite the fall in the overall value of ‘million pound donations’, the amount that went directly to charities rather than being ‘banked’ in foundations, increased from £631m to £747m indicating a shift towards getting funds out onto the ‘front line’ to charities, many of which are struggling to raise funds from other sources.

Higher Education, Arts and Culture and International Development remain the most popular destinations for the largest gifts amongst both individual and institutional donors. But support for environmental causes increased in 2010/11, and all types of charities attract some support from million pound donors.

Read more: Charities minister Nick Hurd says all should give 1% to charity

This annual report, which is now in its fifth year of publication, tracks size, scale and recipients of donations worth £1m or more from individuals, trusts and corporations in the UK and is illustrated with a number of case studies of donors and recipients, who discuss their experience.

Pictured above: Fran Perrin of Indigo Trust, one of Coutts’ million-pound donors, receiving Philanthropist of the Year at the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards in October 2012

191 organisations received million pound donations in 2010/11. This is far higher than the 154 recipients identified in 2009/10. The vast majority (166) received only one gift of this size. Organisations that received multiple million pound donations tended to be the oldest universities (notably Oxford and Cambridge) or national arts and cultural institutions.

As in every year that the report has been published, the most frequent size of donation is worth 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 amongst the ‘top rank’ of UK philanthropists.

Maya Prabhu, Executive Director, Philanthropy Services at Coutts said: ”It’s extremely encouraging for the development of UK philanthropy to note that this is the highest number of donors and donations since we began compiling this report in 2008. Large scale philanthropy is on the increase and the more donors there are and the more they communicate about the benefits their philanthropy brings to society and what it means to them personally, the more it will grow and strengthen a new generation of philanthropists.

Read more: Mitch Winehouse on the Amy Winehouse Foundation

“Despite the scepticism suggesting that many large scale donors are simply looking to make the most of ‘tax breaks’ on offer, our experience, as backed up by this report, is that the reality is very different. Today, the majority of the philanthropists we meet are self-made individuals, many of whom have witnessed first hand the highs and lows of building a business, and on occasion, the possibility of losing everything. It’s a strong desire to make a contribution to the world that has afforded them so many opportunities, whilst also enriching their own lives, their families and the lives of others that we see as the main driver for their philanthropy.”

Dr Beth Breeze from the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent co-author of the report, commented: “At a time when ordinary donors are finding it tough to maintain their support for charities, it is heartening to see those with a greater capacity to give are stepping up to the challenge in increased numbers. A 7-figure donation is obviously a major commitment, and it is not surprising that people start by making a gift of £1 million, rather than – say – £10 million.

“But experience shows that, if donors feel their money is well spent, and that their contribution is appreciated and makes a tangible difference to the causes they care about, then they will continue to give at this level, and quite possibly increase their contributions. You very rarely meet an ex-philanthropist!

“Before we started this annual study of million pound donations, there was no clear understanding of the scale, role and significance of the largest philanthropic acts in the UK. That was an important gap in our knowledge that needed filling, because we need a proper understanding of current levels of support in order to make robust plans for developing this much-needed source of income in the future.

“The data and analysis provided by the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent is helping charities, fundraisers and policymakers to build a decent knowledge base about major giving and gain a better understanding of the main trends in contemporary UK philanthropy, which should help the UK to develop a stronger culture of philanthropy.”

Key findings of the report include:

In the five years that the data has been tracked, the number and value of donations has gone up and down.

Year No of donations worth £1m+ Total of donations worth £1m+
2006/7 193 £1.618bn
2007/8 189 £1.405bn
2008/9 201 £1.548bn
2009/10 174 £1.312bn
2010/11 232 £1.241bn
Total 989 £7.124bn
Table 1: The data on number and value of donations in the past 5 years

Annual variations are due – in part – to the ‘lumpy nature’ of major philanthropic giving. In 2010/11, as in previous years, one individual donor made a 9-figure (£100m+) donation. The existence of a different person each year making a once-in-a-lifetime transfer of funds from private wealth into a charitable foundation is a key – but unpredictable – element of this data, such that a ‘peak’ or a ‘trough’ may reflect nothing more than the size of this one mega-gift.

As seen in previous years, the most frequent size of donation is exactly £1m, many (38%) are worth between £2-£9.9m, and over half (51%) are worth £2m or more.

This year sees a rise in the number of donations made to UK charities from outside the UK, with 12 international donations (seven of which are from the USA) compared to just five in 2009/10. The other donors based abroad come from Canada, Hong Kong, Kuwait and South Africa.

In 2010/11 over half (60%) of the value of million pound donations went directly to front-line operating charities, whilst 40% was placed into charitable trusts and foundations for distribution to good causes at a later date. Over the first three years that this data has been collected, we identified a trend towards putting money to work more quickly rather than building up charitable endowments, as larger and larger percentages were ‘spent’ rather than ‘banked’

Corporations (including direct charitable contributions from companies and those made via corporate foundations) account for a much larger share of the percentage of million pound donations than in previous years. They were responsible for 16% of all donations worth £1 million or more in 2010/11, compared to around 10% in all previous years. However, as their average value is lower than those made by other types of donors, they account for 13.5% of the total value of these biggest gifts in 2010/11.

Read more on philanthropy from Spear’s

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