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UK Large-Scale Philanthropy Hits New Highs; Donor Numbers Double - Coutts Report

Josh O'Neill

29 November 2016

Charitable donations of more than £1 million ($1.2 million) have reached the highest level since 2008 while the number of donations has almost doubled since 2006, signalling a lower average contribution per donor, according to a new report published by .

The Royal Bank of Scotland-owned private bank's Million Pound Donors Report revealed that £1.83 billion was donated in 2015 through 355 gift payments, up 17 per cent year-on-year and 19 per cent in total value.

However, the report's findings also showed that in 2006-2007, just 193 donations comprised a total of £1.62 billion, highlighting how the average donation has fallen.

Based on these figures, the average donation (calculated as a mean average) in 2006-2007 was £8.39 million; in 2015, it was £5.15 million. This shows that although donations have hit new highs more than £3 million has been shaved off the average contribution.

Meanwhile, higher education remained the main recipient of higher level philanthropy, receiving more than one-third, or 35 per cent, of the total donation value.

As in previous years, London is the source of the majority of contributions but donations came from “almost every region” of the UK, Coutts said. The report found that 10 per cent of the total value came from 28 overseas donations.

Coutts' report also identified 68 first-time million pound donors in 2014-2015, and that seven people who contributed in 2014 donated again at a similar level one year later, suggesting an emergence of new large-scale philanthropists in the UK, the bank noted.

“We now have enough data to talk confidently about this being a ‘boom time’ for UK philanthropy,” said Dr Beth Breeze, co-author of the report from the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent. “These findings suggest that efforts to build a stronger culture of philanthropy in the UK have been successful, and that we must maintain the momentum to ensure that this boom doesn’t turn to bust if – as many predict – the economic and social context becomes more difficult in the years ahead.”

WealthBriefing spoke to New Philanthropy Capital, a charity think tank and consultancy, to establish whether Coutts' findings resonate with NPC's data.

"We have definitely seen an uprise in clients wanting to make large donations," said Plum Lomax, a senior consultant at NPC. "However, unlike the Coutts data, which showed a focus on higher education, throughout the past year we have seen people more fixated on causes such a refugees and asylum seekers. With regards to education, we see a lot of donations into the disadvantaged youth sector."

Lomax also noted that donors continually express interest in contributing to causes that seek to improve the criminal justice system, as well as the rehabilitation of ex-offenders and mental health charities.