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Why aren’t the Rich Listers giving (and how can we change that)?

by Susie Hills | May 15, 2018 | Fundraising

£115m gets you onto the Sunday Times Rich List. It means you are one of the richest 1,000 people in the UK. Together the richest 1,000 own £724bn, 10% more than last year and yet their giving has barely increased.

In 2017, Rich Listers gave a total of £3.207bn – only a smidgen (0.3%) more than last year.

There are 145 billionaires on the list, 11 more than last year and double the number than just five years ago – and yet the number of Rich Listers giving 1% of their wealth is down by 20 from last year.

Deeply disappointing.

£115m would get me into the top 1,000 richest people in the UK. If I gave 1% of my wealth I would be one of the top 95 donors on the list.

905 Rich Listers are giving less than 1% of their wealth.

A few are bucking the trend and giving much, much, more. Like the generous Sainsbury family whose fortune has declined from £1.967bn to £550m due to their generosity. In 2009 they became the first Rich Listers to give away £1bn.

But 905 are clearly not ‘doing their bit’.

Charities Aid Foundation data shows us, “those in the bottom decile donate approximately 3% of their budget”.

Only 35 of the Rich List gave 3% or more of their wealth away. If they had all donated 3% of their wealth, the total donated would be over £21bn – not £3bn. Much more like it…

Even if the Rich Listers failed to be as generous as the poorest in our country and decided to only give 1%, then it would be £7.2bn – more than double the figure reported by the Sunday Times.

Now I know that I am not quite comparing apples with apples, and that the wealth listed in the Rich List is not the same as the income from which the poorest 10% give. However, it’s still hard to see how anyone whose wealth is listed at £115m or more cannot give at least 1% of their wealth away. This is illustrated admirably by those who are giving at some much higher rates – the 9 Rich Listers who gave 10% or more.

So why haven’t the ultra-rich giving more? Maybe because ‘we’ haven’t asked for it.

Charities in the UK have failed to develop major giving and have focused on mass and community giving.

The University sector in the UK has led the way in securing major gifts, with the majority of £1m+ gifts going to HE. Coutts reported that higher education institutions received the highest number of donations of £1m or more (600). Universities have focused major gift fundraising. They do their research, build long-term relationships, recruit and train for major gift fundraisers, and, most importantly, they get out there and ask.

If giving amongst the ultra-rich is to grow, then charities must take inspiration from the higher education sector, and invest in major gift fundraising now.