Last month, the Beacon Collaboration held a discussion in the great chamber of the Charterhouse in London with some of the UK’s richest people last month. The idea behind this discussion was to increase the amount the countries richest donate to charity each year. The Beacon Collaboration want to push the UK’s philanthropy to £4 billion a year, which is double the current amount.
The way the rich are perceived in the UK has changed dramatically over the years. There was a time when the 1% were all known by name thanks to the philanthropy and good-will spread across the country. Now, the assortment of bankers, lawyers, and CEOs sit with their name tags, hiding in the shadows.
The Beacon Collaborations manifesto is to build on the rich history (no pun intended) of British philanthropy and bring it to the present day. They are a collection of the 1% who want to encourage their peers to increase the amount of their annual giving. This manifesto has gained over 50 signatures already. Including; Sir Harvey McGrath, Philip Harris, Gay Huey Evans, and Sir Vernon Ellis.
”“There are an enormous amount of wealthy people who just don’t give a damn. They just want their money to make more money.”said one of the attendees at the discussion
Figures from HM Revenue & Customs show that only 40% of people earning over £250,000 in the 2016/17 tax year listed a charitable donation on their tax return. Out of these donations, the average amount given was only £1,000. The average has been decreasing over the years, from £1,100 last year and £1,130 the year before.
Even when we start to look at the even higher paid – people earning £10 million, the ultra-wealthy – giving is down. Just 5% give away more than 0.25% of their wealth each year. Sadly, the average that the ‘ultra-rich’ donate a year is just £240. Pocket change.
”“Rich people are ordinary people: when times get bad [charitable giving] is discretionary spending that they can pull back on. We need to make the case clearly that’s not the right thing to do. If you could get everyone moving from £240 to £480 it would have zero impact on their lifestyle but a massive impact on the charity sector.”said Cath Dovey, co-founder of the Beacon Collaborative.
Unlike Americans, Brits aren’t very fond of talking about money. It is a slightly taboo topic and even Lloyds bank (one of the biggest banks in the UK) has released an advert based off of the ‘M’ word! The English do not necessarily want to a building to be named after them, or a statue in the garden on a university they funded. Perhaps is one of the reasons for the decline in philanthropy.
So perhaps the solution to the problem is to create a different model of philanthropy that suites the UK, instead of trying to copy the American strategy.
Another reason why the wealthier Englishman may not be giving to charity is a simple lack of trust in the charity sector. There is a big divide in the UK at the moment between the two main political parties, Labour and Conservative. It tends to be that the potential givers and the people who work in the third sector don’t get along. Ms Dovey said to the Financial Times “It’s like putting landed gentry in front of a bunch of Guardian readers.”
The British people are in a very unknown environment right now, with Brexit still lingering in everyone’s mind and worries. Let’s hope that when Brexit is through with less uncertainty and with the help of the Beacon Collaborative to raise awareness and push the rich to give back.