Major donors are giving a smaller proportion of their wealth to charity despite a rise in the actual amount given, figures show.
The charity think tank NPC analysed information from the Sunday Times Giving List, published yesterday, and found that in 2016 philanthropists needed to give away at least 2.1 per cent of their residual wealth to appear in the list’s top 50 biggest givers – compared with 2.6 per cent last year.
The percentage of their wealth that individuals needed to donate to appear in the list’s top 100 was down from 1.1 per cent last year to 0.9 per cent this.
But Cathy Pharoah, professor of charity funding at Cass Business School, urged caution over the figures, saying slight fluctuations between years were to be expected.
In total, the 200 biggest donors in the UK gave away £2.66bn – up from £2.58bn a year ago.
NPC said one explanation for the fall in the proportion given away could be that personal wealth had increased while the level of giving had remained static. It called for more and better philanthropy.
Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC, said: "Our wealthiest philanthropists make a huge contribution to UK society, and they’re giving more this year.
"But we can also see that the proportion of wealth going to good causes from these top donors has dropped, and that really matters.
"NPC has long argued that we need more but also better philanthropy. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask more of our wealthiest philanthropists.
"Where people have the cash, and have started to think about giving it away, they should be encouraged to become bigger, smarter donors. Philanthropy is all about what we can achieve through our generosity."
Pharoah said: "There may be a change in the total proportion given, but I don't think there's been a dramatic shift, because the threshold of giving as a proportion of wealth for the top 25 has actually gone up slightly from last year, to 5.01 per cent from 4.95 per cent, and the value of the giving of the top 25 has changed little as a proportion of wealth.
"Year-on-year comparisons need to be treated cautiously because the quality of data on wealth varies enormously, partly because it's difficult to access, and the wealth estimates for some of the top 25 donors are identical to last year's figures, which seems odd."
She pointed out there would also be some variation in the data on who had given what, because some, such as Lord Sainsbury, gave from foundations rather than their personal wealth.
According to The Sunday Times, the biggest donor for the third year running was Lord Sainsbury and his family, giving away £220m, 40 per cent of their residual wealth, while the musician Sir Elton John gave away £26.8m, the author JK Rowling donated £10.3m and the former footballer David Beckham donated £5m.