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THE PHILANTHROPY PARADOX: PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR PLANNED GIVING

A Think Piece commissioned by Prism the Gift Fund. Researched and written by Dr Beth Breeze, Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent.

The Paper

Prism commissioned a survey by NatCen of 1,215 interviews with a random sample of the population across the UK to investigate attitudes to philanthropic giving. Two known paradoxes are noted – that donors tend to benefit alongside those they intend to help, and that wealth accumulation tends to precede distribution - before new data is presented to illustrate a third paradox about philanthropy in the UK: that the public holds a generally positive view about the things philanthropy pays for, whilst at the same time holding many negative opinions about those doing the paying.

Key Findings

In the main body of the report, five findings are presented and discussed, including reflections on how the data varies according to gender, age and income:


1. Charitable giving is a very common but largely private matter in the UK, rather than something discussed openly and frequently. This creates problems for establishing giving as a social norm and for creating opportunities to ask each other to support our favoured causes. Younger women (aged 18-29) are the most likely to talk about their giving.


2. Most people believe that philanthropic donations make a positive contribution to society, and there is a generally held expectation – regardless of gender, age and income - that people should donate money to charity.


3. There is less fulsome and widespread agreement that philanthropists are good for society - only a bare majority (53%) of the lower income group concur, and most people do not trust donors to do what is right with their donations. When asked to define ‘philanthropist’, most suggestions are positive (e.g. ‘Generous’, ‘Caring’, ‘Kind’) but a tenth associate the concept primarily with financial connotations (‘Wealthy’, ‘Rich’, ‘Money, ‘Affluent’) and notable minorities are either unable to answer the question, or offer negative definitions (e.g. ‘Bad’, ‘Crafty’, ‘Egotist’, ‘Greedy’, ‘Idiot’, ‘Liar’, Ruthless, ‘Self-centred’, ‘Tax-dodger’). Such perceptions are understood to be problematic, with almost a fifth (18.2%) agreeing that negative perceptions of philanthropists might deter people from giving more to charity.


4. Awareness of, and support for, tax incentives to encourage charitable giving are highest amongst older and higher income people. The total value of charity tax reliefs is c.£5.1 billion each year, yet we find ongoing low levels of awareness of governmental support for donors and charities. One in five (22.8%) disagree with this use of public money, with the youngest age group least likely to agree.


5. Awareness of Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) is very low, but they appeal to many different types of donor. Only a tiny fraction (2.5%) had pre-existing knowledge of DAFs. Once it was explained that DAFs are charitable accounts run by non-profit entities that enable time- and tax-efficient giving, interest rose considerably, especially amongst younger donors and men.

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