The centre has been established and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Office of the Third Sector, the Carnegie UK Trust and the Scottish Government.
Harrow will run the centre's hub, which will co-ordinate the three programmes, or 'spokes'. Charity researcher Cathy Pharoah will be co-director of the hub, which will be supported by the NCVO, the Charities Aid Foundation and Stephen Osborne, professor of public management at the University of Edinburgh.
The first spoke, focusing on individual and business giving, will be led by Charles Harvey, dean and professor of business history and management at Strathclyde Business School. It will explore traditional giving patterns and measurement of social returns on charitable investment.
The second spoke, on charitable giving and social redistribution, will be led by John Mohan, professor of social policy at the University of Southampton, with Iain Williamson, a senior lecturer at the University of Kent, as co-director. It will research whether charitable activity mitigates social and economic inequalities, relationships between givers and receivers and how and why donors support causes.
The third spoke will focus on institutionalised giving structures. It will be based at City and Edinburgh universities and led by Harrow and Osborne.
The centre will receive £2.2m over five years - £300,000 for the hub and £500,000 for each spoke. The remaining money will go to additional projects.
Charlie McConnell, chief executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, described the collaborations as "enormously significant".