Number of million-pound donations in UK is at highest level since 2008

The value of charitable donations of £1m or more in 2013 was up slightly to £1.36bn, according to the Coutts Million Pound Donors Report

Coutts Million Pound Donors Report
Coutts Million Pound Donors Report

The number of UK charitable donations of £1m or more reached its highest level in 2013 since the start of the economic crisis, according to the latest Million Pound Donors Report by Coutts.

The seventh edition of the report, which was authored by Beth Breeze of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, says that 292 such donations were made to charitable causes or banked in foundations in 2013, which represents a 50 per cent increase on 2012. The gifts came from 166 donors, up from 98 the year before.

But the total value of such donations rose by just 1 per cent to £1.36bn from £1.35bn a year earlier, says the report, which tracks the number, size, scale and destination of donations of £1m or more made by individuals, foundations and corporations in the UK.

The size of the average donation in 2013 was also lower than in recent years, possibly - according to the report - because of the increased number of first-time donors who are more likely to give nearer the lower end of the scale. The mean value of donations was £4.6m and the median was £2m, compared with £6.9m and £2.3m respectively in 2012.

Donations from corporations reached 15 per cent of the total value of donations for the first time. Since the first report in 2008 corporations have accounted for about 10 per cent of the total.

The report says this is the result of strong philanthropic activity by established firms such as British Gas, Shell and HSBC, along with donations by new entities such as Nominet UK, the domain name registry.

By contrast, the percentage of gifts by value from individuals fell sharply from 32 per cent (£428m) in 2012 to 18 per cent (about £240m). Sixty-seven per cent was from foundations.

The bulk of the million-pound donations again went to higher education and charitable trusts and foundations, which respectively attracted 41 and 23 per cent of the total.

Nine institutions received three or more gifts above a million pounds – all were universities or major charity brands.

The vast majority of the million-pound donors were from London, constituting 169 donations and 69 per cent of the total, with the second biggest proportion of donors hailing from the south east.

But the largest gift, of £75m, came from overseas.

The UK findings form part of the wider Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report, which also covers the US, Russia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Middle East, and shows that $26.3bn worth of donations of $1m or more were made in 2013, up from $19bn the previous year.

"It is very encouraging to see such a large number of million-pound donations," said Breeze. "This finding marks a new stage in UK philanthropy, when giving a million becomes the new normal for those that have the capacity to give at the highest level. We have long known that social norms and social pressure are key to encouraging philanthropy: the heightened attention on major givers in the media, and the increasingly positive climate for philanthropy in the UK, have combined to nudge people towards making more significant donations than they might otherwise have done."

Breeze also said that the role of the fundraising profession should be acknowledged in nurturing the biggest givers. Having well trained and trusted people willing to make a compelling ask for seven-figure sums enables more charities to benefit from the wealthiest donors, she said.

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