Major donations of at least £1m have started to show signs of recovery after the recession, according to the third annual Coutts Million Pound Donors Report.
The report by Beth Breeze, a researcher at the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy at the University of Kent, found that the number of million-pound donations in 2008/09 was at its highest level in the three years since the report started tracking major giving.
Researchers found 201 separate donations of at least £1m in 2008/09 – up from 189 in 2007/08 and 193 in 2006/07.
The combined value of these donations in 2008/09 was £1.55bn compared with £1.41bn the year before. This was, however, still lower than the total of £1.62bn in 2006/07.
The number of major donations made by individuals has remained steady over the past three years, whereas those made by foundations and corporations has been steadily rising, the report also said.
"There is more to be done to encourage more individual donors to discover both the public benefits and the life-enriching qualities of philanthropy," the report added.
It found that higher education continued to be the preferred cause for million-pound donors in the UK.
The collective value of donations to UK universities exceeded the sums placed in charitable foundations for the first time, the report said. It claimed that a major reason for this might be a government match-funding scheme, was launched in 2008 for donations to higher education.
But it also said that it may be partly due to "wealthy donors’ understanding of the wide-ranging roles that universities play in improving society, in terms of both educating the next generation and researching solution to pressing scientific and social problems".
The report found that most of the biggest donors were based in London.