The Honours List & the challenges of celebrating philanthropy

On 11th June 2021, the Queen’s Birthday Honours List was published. 1,129 honours were given to individuals from a wide range of sectors in recognition of their contributions to UK society.

This new batch of awards sees two more individuals honoured with specific reference to their philanthropy. This follows 13 people who were celebrated with mention of philanthropic activities in the New Year’s Honours List.

birthday honours list

View the full Birthday Honours List

In this latest Honours list, there are only two specific mentions of philanthropy, out of a total list of 1,129 awards. There are 19 mentions of services to charity, which more broadly includes paid and voluntary roles as well as charitable giving. Indeed, in total there were 695 citations for individuals who have undertaken work in their communities on a paid or voluntary basis.

The outstanding work of all these individuals in support of civil society deserves national praise. Among them, are also hidden acts of philanthropy.


An exemplary case is David Forbes-Nixon, who has invested his time and effort, as well as a substantial financial contribution, to establish the Stepping Stones senior school. The school provides a positive environment for children with special educational needs to become self-confident, life-long learners. He also created Project Search to help young people with learning difficulties get into employment.

These hidden examples highlight one of the challenges in mobilising greater philanthropy – that the natural reticence among those who give time, talent and treasure to be recognised for their endeavours means wider society misses out on the potential offered by these exemplary role models to inspire others. Moreover, it is hard to monitor just how much individual philanthropy is taking place across the UK.

As the recent Philanthropy Paradox report noted, the wider British public is ambivalent towards philanthropists, but they are supportive of philanthropy. Honours citations offer an ideal vehicle to celebrate these extraordinary acts of philanthropy by individuals whose work might otherwise remain below the radar.

If we want to increase philanthropy, we need to become much more comfortable using this term to describe the work of individuals who voluntarily give their financial resources, time and energy to effect social and environmental change.

Below, we highlight the two individuals in this year’s Birthday Honours List who were celebrated with mention of their philanthropy.

William Adderley, KNIGHT

Sir William is the founder of the Dunelm Group.

Philanthropist William Adderley has been celebrated for his work through the Stoneygate Trust, a foundation he set up a decade ago which aims to distribute £5 million annually. The trust funds medical research and educational opportunities for disadvantaged children.

Sir William’s charitable activities have included a £2 million donation to the hospice Loros, as well as funding Leicester University’s Exercise Project and the Nottingham University children’s brain tumour research fund, supporting over 170 live projects in total.

william adderley


Gay Huey Evans, CBE

Gay is the chair of the London Metal Exchange.

Gay Huey Evans – who was honoured with an OBE in 2016 – has now been awarded a CBE for her “services to the economy and philanthropy.” Her charitable giving has seen her support music and culture organisations as well as being a strong advocate for these sectors as a whole.

Gay is also a former chair of Beacon, using her position here to help drive for an increase in wealthy philanthropy in the UK.

Her strong City career has seen her serve on the boards of Standard Chartered, ConocoPhillips, IHS Markit and HM Treasury, and she has been lauded for her dedication to diversity and inclusion.