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Philanthropists feel enriched by giving, new book reveals

Richer Lives - Why rich people giveMost rich people who donate to philanthropic causes say it enriches their lives despite leaving them worse off, according to a new book co-written by Dr Beth Breeze.

Dr Breeze, Director of the University's Centre for Philanthropy, and co-author Theresa Lloyd, a philanthropy expert and founder director of Philanthropy UK, interviewed 40 established wealthy UK donors and 42 newly emerging givers for their book Richer Lives: why rich people give.

The research for the book established that the most common reason for giving among donors, whether established or newly-emerging, was that they viewed philanthropy as a life-enriching activity. Among other key motivations were a belief in a cause as a result of personal experiences and the desire to be a catalyst for change and to make something good happen.

Only a third of respondents cited tax reliefs on charitable donations as an incentive to give.

Dr Breeze said: 'Although philanthropic acts are motivated by a complex array of factors, one shared driver is that they enrich donors' lives in many ways, even though it leaves them worse off financially.

'This enrichment might involve people feeling satisfied they are using their private wealth to support the causes they care about, or it might be about the enjoyment of having unusual experiences and developing relationships working with interesting people in charities.

'We also found that the benefits of giving create a virtuous circle, leading to a deeper and longer-lasting commitment to good causes. Interestingly, the reverse was also true: those that never give, or give very little, missed out on the life-enhancing experience of philanthropy.’

Dr Beth BreezeOther drivers to giving included a belief that philanthropy is the right use of surplus money, clarity about the complementary roles of government and philanthropy, the desire to transmit values to donor’s children, and an appreciation of the recognition that comes with being philanthropic.

However, the book shows that the days of the 'armchair philanthropist' are over, with almost all those donating substantial amounts of money also choosing to give large amounts of their time by being personally involved in the causes they support.

But the book also highlights that, despite being wealthy, many rich people still feel financially insecure. Dr Breeze said that this perceived insecurity is a 'key barrier' to giving at all and also to giving more.

Donors reported that the last ten years had seen an improved public profile for philanthropy and a better political climate - despite much offence being caused by the 2012 Budget proposal to cap charity tax reliefs Donors also felt that fundraisers are acting more professionally, with better research being conducted into potential donors and their needs.

The Centre for Philanthropy is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.


Story published at 12:24pm 30 September 2013

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Last Updated: 09/05/2013