Study examines giving habits of wealthy philanthropists round the world

It was carried out by the Institute for Philanthropy after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said the Giving Pledge would be extended outside the US

Bill and Melinda Gates: Giving Pledge to be extended
Bill and Melinda Gates: Giving Pledge to be extended

Long-lasting philanthropic institutions can become "sclerotic and bureaucratic", an anonymous wealthy donor has told the Institute for Philanthropy as part of a study on giving behaviour.

The donor was one of 22 from around the world to contribute to the paper After the Giving Pledge: Giving Behaviours of 22 Donors, published today.

The individual, who is not named, said: "I strongly believe that philanthropy can be more effective when driven by the wishes and strategy of a living donor.

"Long-lasting philanthropic institutions can become sclerotic and bureaucratic, not always but often. Family foundations may end up with their hands tied by a legacy directed at tackling a social problem that no longer exists. Innovation and risk-taking is often reduced."

Donors interviewed for the paper come from the UK, the US, Brazil, Canada, Lebanon and Mexico, and give away an average of £1.4m a year each. Their foundations have an average endowment of £51.9m, the report says.

The institute carried out the study after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced in February that the Giving Pledge would be extended to wealthy donors outside the US.

The pledge, founded by the Gateses and Warren Buffett in 2010, was set up to persuade the world’s wealthiest people to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes, either during their lifetime or after their deaths. The entrepreneur Richard Branson and David Sainsbury, the former chairman of Sainsbury’s and now a Labour peer, are among the 105 signatories.

For the paper, donors were asked set questions by email about the rate at which they intended to spend their philanthropic assets. Seven of the 22 said they had decided precise timeframes in which to give away all their philanthropic capital. Of these, three aimed to do so within the next 10 years, two within five to 10 years after their deaths, one in the next five to eight years and one over the course of the next 20 years.

Eight of the donors had made provision for their families to pursue their own philanthropic interests.

Donors were asked what percentage of their wealth they would give away to philanthropic causes: 11 of them said 25 per cent or less, four between 51 and 75 per cent, and four between 76 and 100 per cent. One of the donors said between 26 and 50 per cent.

Jenna Pudelek

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