Gold arrow pointing up

Good news for giving: Sunday Times Giving List 2023 and other reports show UK’s wealthy are giving more

Giving levels among some of the UK’s richest individuals and charitable foundations are on the rise, according to recent reports. 

The Sunday Times Giving List 2023, published in partnership with Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), shows the philanthropic activity of 100 of Britain’s wealthiest people. In the last year collectively they gave £3.4 billion to charity — personally or through their charitable foundations or businesses — up by more than a billion on last year’s total giving. 

The most popular causes among donors were children, the environment, the arts, education and health.

The list revealed Sir Chris Hohn, 56, to be Britain’s most charitable person donating more than 15% of his estimated £5 billion wealth — focused primarily on children in developing countries and challenging climate change.

Seven members of The Sunday Times Rich List gave more than £100 million in the past year, 42 gave £10 million or more, while 90 were members of the £1 million donors club. 

Family foundations go further

Giving levels among foundations are also on the up. Grant making by family foundations grew 11% and 17% by corporate foundations according to the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) Foundations Giving Trends Report 2022, published last month.

The report tracks the annual change in finances in 2020-21 of the Top 300 foundations, representing around 90% of the value of giving by philanthropically-funded foundations, and includes the top 150 family foundations and top 50 corporate foundations.

Generosity among family foundations — which are foundations funded principally by the personal gift of an individual donor, family business, or family member(s) — was notable. Family and personal foundations contributed 61% of giving by the Top 300, compared to corporate foundations that contributed 6% in 2020–21.

Six family foundations increased their grantmaking by more than £10 million each in real-terms.

It is worth noting that almost three quarters of the largest 100 family foundations in the UK have a living family trustee. 

Millionaires giving more 

These upward trends are visible too among UK millionaires. 

Our own research, a quarterly survey into giving by the wealthy, showed a  sizeable lift in major giving in the first quarter of this year with one in three millionaires making a charitable gift over £10,000 in the first three months of 2023.

Half of the respondents with wealth of £5 million to £10 million and two-thirds of those with wealth of more than £10 million gave more than £10,000.

There were also a significant number of six-figure gifts from millionaires in the £2 million to £5 million wealth band. The largest gift captured in the survey data was £550,000.

The research, conducted by Savanta, captures trends among a representative sample of UK millionaires.

This is the 12th wave of quarterly data on high-net-worth giving and the first time we have seen such a major increase in giving activity.

More donations but fewer donors

And there were lifts in generosity among the general population too.

CAF’s UK Giving Report 2023, a long-running study of the people’s giving habits and trends in the charitable landscape in 2022, showed spikes in donations for March and April that helped to make 2022 the most generous year on record for giving — with an estimated £12.7 billion in donations, up £2 billion on 2021.

However while generosity appears to be going up, the number of donors is shrinking, which CAF attributes to the cost of living crisis in this latest report.

Rising costs also affect how far donations will actually go, proving even more of a challenge for charities.

CAF Chief Executive Neil Heslop OBE explains: “As more and more people have turned to charities for help, they have faced their own increasing costs and less income to cover them. 

“Worryingly, the extra giving we saw in 2022 was not the result of more people giving, but of more being given by the same number of people. At the same time, the drop in participation in fundraising events and volunteering, initially a necessity due to Covid lockdowns, now appears to be locked in.”

More needed than ever before

It is encouraging that there is a solid base of donors who are continually and increasingly generous. The shrinking donor base suggests that it is those with excess resources, in these difficult economic times, who are maintaining and increasing their giving.

These reports put a spotlight on this increased generosity from those with wealth levels to continue giving.

In the Sunday Times Giving List, Sir Chris Hohn made a call for more wealth holders to step up to support social and environmental causes.

He told the The Sunday Times: “If they could understand, even on a simple level, the joy they could have by sharing it [their wealth], I think they might all be happier people. Even for those who are into philanthropy they are only giving away a half per cent of their wealth. They’re not really doing more than tokenism.”

For context, Sir Chris gave away more than £755 million in 2021, the equivalent of about £14.5 million a week, or £2.1 million a day.

Our research has shown that wealth holders typically give 1% – 2% of their wealth annually. For those with assets of £10 million this equates to £100,000 – £200,000 per year.