Royal patronages provide no discernable benefits to charities that seek to obtain and retain them, according to new research.
A report by the charity consultancy Giving Evidence – funded by the Belgian Red Cross – found that 74 per cent of charities with royal patrons did not receive any public engagements over the last year, and there was no evidence that royal patrons increase a charity’s revenue, or generosity more broadly.
The report acknowledges that benefits are provided in other areas such as staff morale and on beneficiaries, but says an analysis of the potential to raise a charity’s revenue over time at patronee charities versus that of comparable charities found revenue was not affected when a royal patronage starts.
Many charities believe that a royal patron will visit them, or enable events at palaces which they can use to attract press coverage or donors, the report says.
But only 1 per cent of charities with royal patrons received more than one public engagement with them last year, researchers found.
While a number were party to more engagements, they were mainly charities set up by royals themselves.
Between 2016 and 2019, those charities made up 2 per cent of the patronee charities, but secured 36 per cent of the royals’ public engagements with patronee charities over the last year, the report says.
The findings also suggest that there is no reason that donors should assume that a charity with a royal patronage outperforms its peers, or any evidence that a concentration of royal patronages of charities in a geographic area increases the generosity of people in that area.
Caroline Fiennes, director of Giving Evidence, said: “The message for charities is pretty clear: they shouldn't seek or retain these things thinking it will help them with their fundraising and they are not likely to get many engagements with their royal patron.
“I have certainly heard of charities trying to get royal patrons in the hope of both of those things."
A comparison of English regions on the number of royal patronages they have, and the proportion of people who have given recently, even internationally, found no evidence that a resident royal family makes a nation more generous.
The UK royal family has 2,862 patronages, of which under half (1,187) are with UK registered charities.
Most charity patronees (1,067) have a single royal patron though some (123) have multiple, although half of the single-patronage patronee charities have Prince Charles, Princess Anne or the Queen, who have 532 between them.
Patronees are concentrated in ‘environment and animals’ and ‘culture and sport’, while the sectors with fewest royal patronages are housing, employment, social services, and religion. The findings reveal that more deprived regions are also under-represented.
The research raises questions about the use of public expenditure as the royal family costs the taxpayer around £345m per year.
Giving Evidence estimated that if public engagements are an indication of workload, then 26 per cent of the royals’ work is for their patronee charities, equivalent to about £90m per year.
The report asserts that if royal patronages produce no discernible benefit, it may not be good value for money.
But if royals do help patronee charities, it is legitimate to question the process and criteria by which that publicly-funded benefit is distributed.