What would it take to grow giving in the U.K?



Much more can be done to grow giving in the UK, say the authors of a report ‘Growing Philanthropy in the United Kingdom’ published researchers at the University of the West of England (UWE) and Indiana University’s Centre on Philanthropy.

Report authors, Professor Adrian Sargeant from UWE and Professor Jen Shang from Indiana University, have summarised the findings discussed at a conference on philanthropy held during the summer and attended by high level participants from the charity sector and government.

UK charitable giving is estimated to be around 1% of gross domestic product and while there are annual variations, this figure has proved remarkably static over time. Despite the best efforts of governments, philanthropists and a generation of fundraisers, the needle hasn’t moved much on giving since data were first recorded.

Professor Sargeant explains the context for the report, he says, “While giving has remained static, demands on the sector have not. The number of natural disasters has tripled since the 1960s and the number of armed conflicts almost doubled. The level of human need met by the sector continues to grow and in the United Kingdom the sector has also found itself with increasing responsibility for social welfare provision as governments have progressively withdrawn from this domain. The need to develop philanthropy to help society cope with this and a multitude of other challenges has never been greater.”

A series of 30 recommendations are presented including the restructuring of Giftaid, the introduction of new giving products and incentives to help emergent forms of giving. Also measures designed to foster public trust and confidence in the sector are suggested, including a toughening of the self-regulation of fundraising scheme and a push to educate the public about how best to select organisations for support.

The researchers also call for substantive change in the sector’s current fundraising practice through the adoption of approaches that respect the needs of supporters and aspirations for their personal philanthropy. This includes a need for investment in the education of fundraisers and a greater understanding of the relationship between fundraising and philanthropy.

“The role of the fundraiser is to create opportunities for individuals to experience the joy of giving,’ said Sargeant, ‘we need to do a much better job of matching individuals with the causes they are about and adding genuine value for them, creating multiple ways to engage and be passionate about our work.’

“We also need to stop being apologists for fundraising, and confront common misunderstandings about how we do our work. It does cost money to find new supporters and develop relationships, but these costs must be seen as an investment. The public, government an even our own Boards need a much greater understanding of these issues.”

Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising, comments, “The report contains a large number of interesting ideas and recommendations. As I travel around the country over the next few weeks meeting a variety of our individual and charity members, volunteers and partners, I will be testing them out and seeking views on which should be priorities.”