UK wealthy increasing giving in response to COVID-19 pandemic

In June this year, we commissioned Savanta to conduct quarterly research on the giving levels among the wealthy population in the UK. In part, this was a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to determine how British philanthropy was responding.

The first poll we were heartened to find 25% had given more than they had planned in the first three months of COVID-19 crisis and 19% gave less, suggesting a net increase in giving by UK millionaires during the first few weeks of the crisis. The research included 300 individuals with investable wealth >£1 million.

By September, the sense was growing that we were moving from immediate crisis to a sustained period of uncertainty. As the negative impact of this new normal began to unfold, threatening jobs and livelihoods, as well as health and wellbeing, we took a second look at giving by the UK’s millionaires to track how their patterns of giving are changing.

The most recent poll included 500 respondents and found, once again, that 26% gave more than planned in the previous quarter versus 18% who gave less.

These results suggest that a significant section of the UK’s wealthy population is continuing to support the non-profit sector through the COVID-19 pandemic above the level of their planned giving. This finding is borne out by the underlying giving levels being reported. In June, we found a median giving level of £200, with 25% having given more than £1,000 in the previous quarter.

In September, these figures have crept up to a median giving level of £410, with 35% having given more than £1,000. The increase in September was driven by a surge among those with investable wealth between £1 million – £5 million. The number in this group giving £1,000 – £5,000 during the quarter doubled from 10% to 20%.

Those giving gifts >£10,000 also almost doubled in this group from 5% to 9%. In parallel, we also asked philanthropists in the Beacon Collaborative network to report back on their levels of giving during the previous quarter. Among the small number of respondents, 70% had given more than they planned between June and September. The median level of giving was £11,000.

These results suggest that those at the core and on the fringes of British philanthropy are responding to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on wider society. As we continue to survey through the coming months, we will determine if this effort can be sustained and whether those who are currently sitting on the sidelines can be encouraged to do more.