Beacon’s Cath Dovey talks Philanthropy on GB News

Just ahead of the Christmas break, Beacon Collaborative co-founder Cath Dovey was interviewed live on GB News by Alex Phillips. During the interview, the duo discussed a range of topics from whether wealthy individuals are giving in the right places to the impact of Covid on British philanthropy.

The interview started with presenter Alex Phillips asking about the current state of wealthy giving in the UK. She pondered whether wealthy individuals were already giving their fair share or if more should be done.

Cath clarified that 1 in 5 wealthy people give at a level considered ‘generous’ (according to Beacon’s Generosity Threshold.) Though she did qualify that ‘generosity’ is highly subjective in nature.

“Most wealthy people give something, but there’s no doubt that many could give more.”

Alex then asked whether wealthy individuals may be giving to the wrong places. Should they, she wondered, be using their resources to address more ‘real needs’ such as poverty, rather than giving to alma maters?

Cath responded that it is difficult to give money away effectively. Often times it is a case of convenience – a university will reach out to its graduates and ask if they can support the next crop of students coming through.

For many wealthy individuals who want to use their resources to give back, this is often an easy and obvious way to do so.

She also commented that one of the issues the UK faces in respect of this is a lack of suitable resources for donors.

“If we had a better infrastructure, a better understanding of all of the challenges out there and how our money could be applied, we’d see a lot more money going into different areas.”

High administrative costs and salaries – a common critique of the charity sector – were then raised by the presenter.

“This critique is founded on a misunderstanding of how the non-profit sector works,” argued Cath, speaking about the fact that charities incur all the same overheads as for-profit businesses and have to counter them with a fraction of the budget.

She continued that if we want charities to be able to provide impactful services, we need these organisations to be resourced effectively.

Following this, Alex asked whether the growth of food banks and the growing inequality gap indicated that charities – as well as the government – are failing.

Cath’s response centred around a lack of public awareness of the integral work charities are carrying out:

“There are hundreds of thousands of charities in the UK doing fabulous work. But very often there is a visibility issue. One of the things philanthropy can do is to fund the kind of work that can make social issues more visible. Marcus Rashford is a brilliant example of someone who used his profile to put a real issue on the map.”

Next on the agenda was ‘due diligence,’ an important issue for donors when considering whether their money is making a difference.

Alex sought recommendations from Cath on how people should engage in the necessary checks and balances which come with giving money away. Cath answered:

“Philanthropy should be a partnership between the organisation and the donor. It’s partly about fundraising organisations being open to these partnerships, and it’s partly about donors recognising that this [relationship] has to be quite light touch.”

Finally, a question was posed about the giving trends of the wealthy during Covid. This is an area Beacon has researched since June 2020, conducting quarterly pulse surveying with 300 – 500 UK millionaires about their charitable giving.

“Looking at the whole of the pandemic, all of the evidence suggests that the rich were very generous throughout Covid. They continued to support organisations they have always supported and they gave more to new organisations. And they did that in an unrestricted way […]

The issue now is how we maintain that. How do we make sure that philanthropy is visible and its effects are visible, so that we give confidence to people to keep going and to give more?”