It’s a boom time for major giving, says nfpSynergy report

The Major Donor Giving Research Report gathers together the findings of research on major donors from the past five years

The UK is experiencing a “boom time” for major giving, an nfpSynergy report that collates available research on major donors has concluded.

The report, Major Donor Giving Research Report: an updated synthesis of research into major donors and philanthropic giving, published today by the research consultancy, summarises the findings of research on major donors from the past five years.

The study points out that much has changed since nfpSynergy compiled a similar report five years ago, particularly in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union. But despite fears about the impact of Brexit on the economy, the number of billionaires has increased to record levels since the vote, the report says.

“Whilst data on major donor giving since the Brexit vote is not yet available, major donor fundraising continues to be a fast-growing element of UK charity fundraising activity, and a small proportion of ‘major’ donors disproportionately shape giving in the UK,” the report says.

“There is now credible year-on-year data to substantiate claims of it being (at least pre-Brexit) a ‘boom time’ for UK philanthropy.”

The report draws on the Coutts Million Pound Donors Report 2016 by University of Kent academic Beth Breeze to support its conclusions, and also highlights recommendations from Breeze’s report in collaboration with Theresa Lloyd, Richer Lives: why rich people give, both which called on charities to address their lack of confidence in their own competence at asking for major donations.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said: “Most people I talk to would say that major donors are going to be a bigger part of the funding mix because the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation will make it hard to talk to large databases of donors.

“Major donors will be more likely to feature in people’s work and thinking going forward.”

The report points out that there is no set definition of what constitutes a major donor, although Breeze suggests £5,000 as an industry standard, and instead says they are more generally defined as people who make large personal donations to charitable organisations

It takes into account research from the US, which it concludes remains significantly ahead of any other country in terms of giving, having given $258.5bn (£197bn) to charity in 2015, compared with $17.4bn (£13.2bn) in the UK. This might be due, research suggests, to differences between the tax regimes and the tendency for giving in the US to be more public than in the UK.

But the report says there is more to large-scale philanthropy than money.

“It remains easy to define major donors in financial terms, yet this is to underestimate the breadth of engagement that major donors may offer the charity sector, whether this is time, advice, expertise and contacts,” it says.

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