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Higher Education remains the preferred cause of million pound donors

Dr Beth BreezeThe third edition of the Coutts Million Pound Donors Report, written by Dr Beth Breeze from the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR), has revealed that Higher Education (HE) continues to dominate as the preferred cause of million pound donors in the UK.

The Report indentifies that this is 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 solutions to pressing scientific and social problems.

Coutts ReportThe Report, which was released on 11 November, also confirms that despite economic crises major philanthropy in the UK continues to prove resilient.

Launched in 2008, the Coutts Million Pound Donors Report is an annual report that collates and analyses data on the largest charitable donations made in the UK each year. The 2010 edition describes and discusses 201 donations of at least £1 million that were made by UK donors or to UK charities in 2008/09, with a combined value of just over £1.5 billion. The report assesses the scale and impact of such gifts, analyses trends in major giving at this level and presents case studies of both ‘million pound donors’ and ‘million pound recipients’, to provide insights into the experience of both giving and receiving gifts on this scale. Previous editions have proved to be useful to charities, donors, fundraisers, philanthropic advisers, policy makers and all those with an interest in encouraging major philanthropy in the UK.

Key findings from the 2010 Report include:

  • The number of million pound donations is the highest of the three years Dr Breeze has been tracking this data. In 2008/09 she identified 201 separate donations, up from 193 in 2006/07 and 189 in 2007/08
  • The value of these largest donations is also showing signs of post-recession recovery. In 2008/09 the collective value of all donations worth £1m or more was worth £1.548bn. This figure is higher than the £1.405 billion she found last year, though still lower than the high of £1.618bn recorded in the first report
  • HE remains the preferred cause of million pound donors. Indeed, for the first time Dr Breeze has found that the collective value of donations to UK universities exceeds the sums placed into charitable foundations, which has been the main destination of million pound donations in both the previous editions of this report. Apart from wealthy donors’ understanding and appreciation of the role universities play, the preference for funding HE Institutions is also due to the existence of special incentives in place to encourage this type of giving, notably the government-funded Matched Funding scheme, launched in 2008, which has clearly played a large role in prompting donations to this sector. The success of this scheme raises important questions about the potential for further government-funded incentives to encourage giving to other charitable subsectors.
  • Most of the biggest donors are based in London but there is a strong presence in Scotland, the North East and Midlands. Areas lacking a strong regional identity, such as the South East, have fewer such donors, especially in relation to the amount of wealth held by individuals living in that region.

Dr Breeze, who is a founding member of the University’s Centre for Philanthropy, Humanitarianism and Social Justice, commented: ‘Fortunately many positive conclusions can be drawn from this report, as we appear to be living in an era that is increasingly aware of the presence and value of philanthropy. The signs appear to be good for ongoing positive trends toward a greater number of major donations, and for the total value of million pound donations to increase.’

Maya Prabhu, Head of UK Philanthropy at Coutts added: ‘The positive trends on the on-going growth in UK Philanthropy noted in this report resonates with the interest in this subject amongst our clients. Many of our clients are keen to give something back and create a social impact. We aim to provide them with opportunities to learn from experts and share experiences with other philanthropists on effective giving This report reflects on topics that we know are important to them, such as ‘collaboration’ with other donors. We hope the report and the case studies of donors and recipients will inspire those who are keen to make a real difference through their philanthropy.’

Copies of the 2010 Coutts Million Pound Donors Report may be obtained from Coutts & Co (email:


Story published at 1:21pm 15 November 2010

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