New charity encourages British to be less reserved about giving

John Plummer

Anonymous donors are being encouraged to step out of the shadows as part of a drive to make the British less embarrassed about giving.

The Beacon Fellowship Charitable Trust has been established in response to concerns that our traditional reserve is stifling philanthropy.

The trust, whose founder partners include the Charities Aid Foundation, The Giving Campaign and The Daily Telegraph, is urging us to be more like the US, where good deeds are positively flaunted.

"It's quite normal in the States to include your charitable activities on your CV," said Emily Stonor, chief executive of Beacon. "If you did that over here people would think you were slightly odd."

The trust, which was launched yesterday (Tuesday), is arranging an awards ceremony for early next year to spotlight individuals who have made exceptional contributions to charity.

The Telegraph has agreed to feature the awards, which will be publicised on ads read by Stephen Fry on Classic FM, another founder member of the trust.

"We're celebrating people who go that extra mile for charity to make people realise they can make a difference," said Stonor. "Some people will always want to remain anonymous but there are a large number of people who want to come forward, not for personal recognition but because they want to share their experiences."

A MORI poll commissioned by Beacon suggests the lack of philanthropic role models is harming charities. More than half the British public is unable to name a well-known charity supporter.

Those that do are most likely to think of showbusiness celebrities such as Sir Elton John, Sir Bob Geldof, and Sir Cliff Richard, in contrast to America where the likes of Bill Gates and Sir John Paul Getty are as well known for their charitable activity as their business activities.

David Charters, co-founder of Beacon and director of Barchester Advisory, part of the corporate financial advisers Barchester Group, is funding the trust's first year.

UK GIVING CULTURE

There are complex cultural and fiscal reasons why attitudes towards charitable giving in the UK are different from those in the US, according to the chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation.

Commenting on the launch of the Beacon Fellowship Trust, Stephen Ainger, said one of the reasons for the divide was lower tax rates in the US, accompanied by generally lower expectations that the state should provide public services.

"It's not a straight comparison," he said. "You get into the debate about the drive to improve public services with greater use of the charitable and non-profit sector, and the balance between raising charitable giving while not replacing services from the state.

"Nonetheless, Europe and the UK have some way to go to close the gap with the more generous culture of giving in the US."

Recent tax changes meant that the fiscal framework in the UK was sound, said Ainger, and it was now up to charities to tell the public about their achievement and draw in donors.

He said recent publicity by the deafness charity RNID was a good example of how to get a message across.

"What it said was, this is what you've given, this is what we've done, and this is how people have benefited. It was very clear."

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