HOT ISSUE: Would public recognition of big donors motivate others?

Last month, the Beacon Fellowship Charitable Trust was set up with the aim of encouraging a higher numbers of givers. It plans to award six annual prizes to people who donate a large amount of time or money to voluntary organisations. However, some are sceptical whether this approach will work on the UK public.

BETH EGAN, deputy director, Social Market Foundation

YES

Everyone thinks people should give more to charity, but when asked if they personally would give more, they are quick to clarify that they mean other, richer people.

It is a characteristic quirk of British people that we persistently underestimate our own wealth. Almost all of us believe we earn less than average, which isn't mathematically possible. We believe there to be vast amounts of people who are wealthier than us and far better placed to donate money to charity.

I do not propose, or desire, to transform Britain into an American-style society where personal wealth is worn as a badge of pride. But I do think that it can only be a good thing for people to talk more openly and honestly about the money they have and the good they do with it. It would be especially useful to trumpet big donations from ordinary people, who often donate a larger percentage of their disposable income than the very wealthy.

Peer pressure is a powerful tool. Advertising gurus in the private sector have long exploited that fact and it is time we did too.

ADRIAN GILLAN, managing director, Gillan Media

NO

The Queen's annual honours lists have increasingly recognised both famous and unknown individuals for giving their time, skills or money to charitable causes or their communities. Also there are already quite a few regional and national media awards out there that recognise "people's heroes" and the like.

Good media stories, but do they directly inspire and motivate others to give? Whatever superficial surveys might suggest, I doubt it.

America's greater culture of charitable giving may arise for several reasons, including less well-developed public services, lower taxes and higher religiosity. It is unlikely to be the result of some kind of philanthropic cross between the Oscars and a Nobel Prize.

Might the Beacon Charitable Fellowship Trust Awards provide interesting best practice case studies for the voluntary sector and existing philanthropists? Quite possibly.

But will it directly spawn more, fresh givers from the wider public? However worthy that aim, probably not.

PETER GILHEANY, director of communications, Giving Campaign

YES

It is time charitable giving came out of the closet. For too long it has been something that the majority of us do, but are loathe to talk about.

Getting high profile and wealthy people to make their giving of both time and money public will help to normalise the idea of doing so, and raise the profile of charitable giving in general. However, just as important is the celebration of giving at all levels, however modest.

The example of major donors can provide inspiration, while examples of giving at your own level provide the reassurance that you can make a difference.

Charitable giving is not something to be ashamed, instead it should be celebrated, both the act and the positive impact it can have.

It is all too easy to rationalise not giving to charity, so the more positive examples of giving, the better. While such an up-front approach to publicising giving might seem distasteful and vulgar to some, I think the long-term benefits warrant it.

EMILY STONOR, chief executive, Beacon Fellowship Charitable Trust

YES

I say yes as long as you don't think of donors purely in financial terms: money is important, but so too are time and ideas.

The Beacon Prize draws attention to exceptional effort and achievement, which invite emulation, thereby permitting us to disseminate best practice.

Research conducted by Mori shows the public believe this would stimulate giving.

It's not just about telling somebody they've made an outstanding contribution, but enthusing others with great ideas, and making people feel their ambition to achieve can be fulfilled by making an extraordinary contribution to charitable endeavour.

So many are the demands on our sector that charitable giving matters more today than ever. To achieve optimum results, you don't just need resources, but the ability to grow and disburse them to maximum effect.

Beacon Fellowship is about an improved culture of giving. That has got to be worth achieving, hasn't it?

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