Most rich donors give because it enriches their lives, study finds

The research was carried out by Beth Breeze (pictured) of the University of Kent and Theresa Lloyd, a philanthropy adviser

Beth Breeze
Beth Breeze

The majority of rich donors say they give because it enriches their lives, according to a new book about wealthy UK donors.

Richer Lives: Why Rich People Give, published today, is based on a study of 110 philanthropists, philanthropy advisers and major donor fundraisers.

The research was carried out by Beth Breeze, director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, and Theresa Lloyd, a philanthropy adviser.  

Lloyd first wrote a book called Why Rich People Give 10 years ago. For the latest study, the researchers went back to 40 of the 100 wealthy donors she originally interviewed. They also surveyed 42 newly emerging donors.

The research was funded by the Pears Foundation, but it is hoped the project will become self-sustaining because proceeds from the book will be used to fund the next study. 

Each of the donors involved has a net wealth of £10m or more and gives an average of £300,000 a year.

"No matter what other people say – that it is about ego, tax breaks or networking – all the donors talked about how their giving enriched their lives," Breeze told Third Sector.

The survey of the wealthy donors found that 67 per cent were concerned about leaving an "over-large" inheritance to their children and, of these, half saw philanthropy as a solution.

The researchers found 10 key reasons why rich people give, including belief in the cause, wanting to be a catalyst for change, feeling they have a duty to share their wealth, believing philanthropy is a good parenting tool or feeling that it enriches their lives.

The survey found that 67 per cent of the donors felt public opinion of philanthropy was more positive than in 2002. More than half, 55 per cent, thought the political climate for philanthropy in the UK had improved.

Breeze said that this was despite the government’s plan to cap tax relief on donations to charity, which was dropped after an outcry from the sector, although the philanthropists said they were offended by the proposal.

"Overall, they said that fundraising had improved," Breeze said. "In particular, fundraisers were getting better at doing research before approaching them and their ‘asks’ were better suited to their interests. The donors said fundraisers were also offering more appropriate recognition for their gifts."

The study makes several recommendations to government, charities, philanthropists, advisers and the media. These include seeking cross-party consensus to clarify a long-term strategy on philanthropy on issues such as tax reliefs, and how philanthropy interacts with public sector provision.

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