"Now more than ever those people in a position to make significant donations need to lead from the front."
Lloyd Dorfman CBE, who features as a case study in this year's Coutts Report


Making philanthropy unmissable

by James Butler and Joanna Motion - 28 November 2016


Gifts that come in large round numbers have a transformational impact upon the beneficiary. They also make philanthropy unmissable. The seven- and eight- and even nine-figures gifts tracked by the Coutts Million Pound Donor Report since 2008 record the development of a culture of giving in the UK at the same time as they contribute to cultural shifts, thanks to the data, analysis and the portraits exploring the motivation of these magnificent donors.

Big gifts raise the sights of other philanthropists. They give confidence and pride to the organisations receiving the gifts. And they encourage the professionalism of the fundraisers who work to ensure that the donor’s desire to bring about change has real effect.

Here are five key observations from this year’s report.

The number of £1 million+ donations has reached a record high, again. The UK Report identifies 355 £1 million gifts, 57 more than in 2014 (itself a record year) and 162 more than in 2006/7, the first year of the report.

The total value of £1 million+ gifts, £1.83 billion, is also a record.
The previous highpoint, £1.62 billion, was set in 2006/7, just before the global financial crisis. Moving out of the shadow of recession has taken eight years but now the £2 billion mark is in sight. All the more impressive as there were no £100 million+ ‘mega gifts’ in 2015, although there were 47 £10 million + gifts (up from 34 last year).

The ongoing rise of the international donor.
Donors based outside the UK made 28 £1 million+ gifts in 2015, up from 20 the previous year. Wealth is increasingly mobile but so are recipients. Whether it’s the Royal Shakespeare Company touring across China or Moorfields Eye Hospital’s clinic in Dubai, UK organisations are expanding their horizons and forging new partnerships overseas.

Higher Education remains the most popular cause, receiving 35% of the total donated and more of the biggest gifts.
Universities have bold aspirations and a track-record in delivering on complex projects. It’s hard to attract a £10 million gift, say, if you don’t have a £10 million idea and the ability to make it happen.

The magic circle is widening. 
There are more first time million pound donors - 35 in this year’s report. And the range of organisations receiving £1 million+ gifts is also growing, with the number of distinct recipients up by 10%, including arts, culture and health organisations, and those supporting young people. It’s encouraging news that the pool of organisations and people able to tell a captivating and ambitious story to potential £1 million+ donors is growing.

Will the 10th anniversary report a year from now continue these encouraging trends? The uncertainties generated by Brexit and the US election may be jolting. But we’d like to think that the philanthropic momentum of the decade, the ability of the seriously wealthy to ride out recession and the fact that donors can see the impact of their generosity – as the case studies in the report demonstrate – mean that the numbers will continue to rise.