Who Are Britain’s Top Philanthropists? Looking ahead to the publication of the Giving List

sunday timesAn interesting article in yesterdays’ Sunday Times previewed the forthcoming Giving List, and gave an indication of the sorts of famous figures we can look out for when the annual list of Britain’s top 100 philanthropists is published next week.

The Giving List is published alongside the Sunday Times Rich List and measures the top 100 philanthropists in the country based on the proportion of their total wealth that they give away to good causes. The 2013 list found that the top 100 philanthropists have given away £1.77bn to charity over the past year, with the sum donated by the total 231 people on the list amounting to an impressive £2.08bn – only slightly below the record levels reached in 2010. To qualify for the top 100 on the giving list this year a philanthropist needed to give away 0.65% of their wealth, rising to 2.62% for those who were chasing an appearance in the top 30.

This years’ list is topped by David Kirch, who has pledged his £100m fortune to the elderly on the island of Jersey, where he has resided since 1973. Mr Kirch told the Sunday Times that “I don’t think rich people give enough to charity” and that his decision to give his fortune to local people is because of his determination to “make a difference.”

Mr Kirch is joined on the list by a number of high-profile celebrities including Sir Elton John who has emerged as the biggest philanthropist in the music world over the past year, and showed that he is definitely someone who has his heart in the right place.

Coming in at No 20 in the list are One Direction. Whilst they would undoubtedly be disappointed if this was a music chart, their entry into the Giving List is admirable: collectively they have given 4% of their combined £25m wealth to charity, which has seen the boy band sensation show that younger generations are doing their bit for charity too.  Other representatives from the music world include Coldplay, whose trio of Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion are collectively 34th on this list, with front-man Chris Martin and his actress wife Gwyneth Paltrow coming in at 58th.

Elsewhere the list includes Martin Lewis, founder of the Moneysavingexpert website, who recently sold his business and chose to give £11.1m of the resulting cash and shares to good causes. Mr Lewis is joined as a first-time top ten entry by Talal Shakerchi, who has given more than £22m earned through his work as a hedge fund manager and high-stakes poker player. In the Sunday Times article, Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) chief executive Dr John Low explains that he believes the growth of charitable giving at this level is being driven by entrepreneurs, many of whom have not inherited their wealth and therefore are less inclined to pass their estate down to the next generation.

Whilst the figures in the Giving List are impressive and highlight the incredible work that some of the wealthiest people in society do to support charity, it is only a snapshot of the philanthropic activity of a few individuals and the rise in donations from the top 100 philanthropists does not necessarily correlate to an easing of the challenges that charities are faced with. We know from the UK Giving 2012 report that overall donations are down. The data from the Giving List is positive, but it does not make up for the 20% drop in donations that CAF’s earlier research has found, and it is important that the work of movements such as the Back Britain’s Charities campaign continue to help charities during these tough economic times.

It will also be interesting to look at the age and occupation profiles of those on the Giving List when the list is published in full next week. CAF’s Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving is looking at the way that people of all ages interact with charity, and if the rise of young philanthropists such as One Direction is echoed by others in role-model positions we hope that this will help us address the problem of charities being forced to rely on donations from older people, and that young stars will help show that giving is fashionable.

We’ll be looking at the Giving List in more detail when it is published in full and trying to assess what it means for the future of philanthropy. In the meantime we raise our glasses to those who have been unveiled so far as some of the most philanthropic people in the country, and hope they continue supporting the causes that they care about.

Steve Clapperton

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