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Culture Secretary calls for ‘collective attitude shift’ to encourage more philanthropy from UK’s wealthiest

Melanie May | 29 January 2024 | News

Lucy Frazer official portrait
Official portrait, UK Parliament

A ‘collective attitude shift’ is needed in how we view earning and giving, so that philanthropists and would-be philanthropists know their giving is recognised and celebrated, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said in a speech last week.

The Culture Secretary was speaking at Onward’s launch of its Giving Back Better: Unlocking the potential of philanthropy in the UK report, which says that too few wealthy individuals are participating in philanthropy with the top 10% of earners in the UK donating at half the rate of the poorest 10%. It claims that if wealthy British citizens were as generous as the lowest earners this would mean £3.4 billion more for UK charities a year.

In her speech, Frazer said that as a nation “we are sometimes squeamish about talking about earning and giving” and often denigrate those who succeed and those who give. Instead, she said, we need to be ‘unashamedly’ championing philanthropy.

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Frazer’s aim, she stated, is a ‘refreshed’ government focus that will enable, encourage and recognise philanthropy. She outlined a focus on three key areas: “streamlining Gift Aid; working with the FCA and HMT to explore the possibility of greater philanthropy training; and promoting and supporting stronger regional and partnership giving.

The Giving Back Better report was authored by Shivani H Menon, Senior Research at Onward, and states that as well as the wealthiest donating at half the rate of the poorest, too few wealthy individuals are participating in philanthropy. Of all donations from the top 1% of households, half came from less than 5% of the group.

The report also states that donors are donating to a narrow set of places in the UK. Donations made through Gift Aid are four times higher in London compared to the UK average, while over a third of all grants from the largest philanthropic foundations are made into London.

Looking at Gift Aid, the report says that it is ‘complex and underused’, with almost a third of all donors finding the system too complicated to use. This means charities lose out on up to £564 million of donations each year through unclaimed Gift Aid, while almost two-thirds of HNW donors do not claim their Gift Aid reliefs.

It also says that social and cultural incentives to give are weak, with few individuals talking about their giving, and philanthropists frequently negatively perceived in the media.

Report recommendations

The report recommends a series of steps. Firstly, to increase the flow of funding into charities, it says:

To ensure that funding gets to where it can help the most, it also recommends:

Commenting in the report, Menon says:

“Philanthropy is a powerful way for the richest to give back, funding causes and initiatives that the government and markets too often miss. It’s something we must encourage, not shy away from.

 

“We need to unleash Britain’s untapped philanthropy potential with better tax incentives, reformed wealth advice and stronger regional giving to encourage a new generation of givers.”

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