Cover of Scoping HNW philanthropy market reportScoping the high net worth philanthropy market

Beacon Collaborative commissioned some initial research to assess the feasibility of using existing data combined with new statistical analysis to create a model that can improve our current understanding of how much is given annually by the UK’s high net worth (HNW) population.

A clearer picture required

There are multiple surveys and sources of data on philanthropic giving in the UK, providing an invaluable bank of information.

Yet despite the huge financial and social value of the philanthropy of the UK’s wealthiest people, very little giving research has a focus on HNW giving.

This is particularly surprising given the distinct nature of HNW philanthropy, and its specialised professional fundraising and wealth advisory approaches. It means we have very limited understanding of its particular contribution to total giving in the UK.

A lack of clarity and coherence in how data on high net worth giving has been collected has significant real-world consequences.

For example, fundraising organisations cannot plan strategically to grow their major donor segment. Without the ability to build a clear business case, they miss out on investment from their organisations that would help them to develop their capabilities to work with major and HNW donors.

The philanthropy sector is hamstrung in its ability to advocate effectively with policy makers. How can we call for regulatory changes, match funds, tax incentives or strategic investment if we cannot pinpoint the size of the prize?

Last but not least, the ill-defined nature of HNW giving allows a media discourse which is ambiguous. For example, without an agreed definition and survey methodology, it is easy for the media to seize on a narrative that the rich are not pulling their weight.

This can be catastrophic if our goal is to stimulate more giving from this segment because it reinforces a herd mentality that philanthropy is not a normal pastime for the rich.

Trialling a new model

The key objectives of the modelling were to reach an estimate for HNW giving based on available data sources, and to develop a robust method that can be repeated over time to increase understanding of trends in HNW giving across changing political, social and economic circumstances

By developing, testing and building consensus around a financial model for HNW giving, the aim was to take an important step forward to understanding the current dynamics of philanthropic investment from the UK’s wealthiest individuals, and the potential for increasing that amount through targeted interventions.

The study trialled a test model based on survey data in which donors were selected by their wealth level, and data was boosted to include UHNW giving. Its results suggests that total giving by the HNW and UHNW population in the UK could be worth around £7.76 billion, and possibly much more. 

This figure is largely missing from current estimates of giving in the UK.


DOWNLOAD: The full report

Scoping the High Net Worth Philanthropy Market (2023) was authored by Cathy Pharoah, Cath Dovey, Tom McKenzie and Vivek Thaker. 

Read Cathy Pharoah’s blog about this research

The work was funded by Arts Council England and City Bridge Foundation

The research survey was carried out and analysed by Savanta, through questions included in their MillionaireVue omnibus survey, commissioned by The Beacon Collaborative. Savanta provided access to additional economic and demographic data.


  • Cathy Pharoah is a Visiting Professor of Charity Funding, Bayes Business School
  • Cath Dovey is Co-Founder, The Beacon Collaborative
  • Tom McKenzie is Professor of Economics, CBS International Business School
  • Vivek Thaker is Associate Director, Savanta