The story so far

Since 2008 we have published The Million Pound Donors Report, a study that aimed to capture the essence of philanthropy by major donors in the UK. In 2013, we studied major donors across six regions, namely the UK, US, Russia, Middle East (GCC*), China and Hong Kong. The result is a report that we believe is the leading authority on the nature and scale of $1m-plus donations internationally.

A key component of the report is the views and opinions of million dollar donors, who have given their time to tell us why they choose to part with a significant portion of their wealth and why they give to the causes they have selected. Their thoughts are open, frank and honest.

Data for $1m-plus donations in the US and the UK is relatively robust, but our first study has exposed just a part of million dollar giving in other regions. The true scale of major philanthropy is likely to be higher than we report. Our 2013 report has put a marker down and we will build on this first set of data to help unearth the full scale of international million dollar giving.

* The Gulf Cooperation Council consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

What does the data tell us

Making regional comparisons would be unfair, but several key trends have emerged from analysis of the data. Charities and organisations received 1,955 million dollar donations worth a total of $19.04bn from 1,249 donors across the UK, US, Russia, Middle East (GCC), China and Hong Kong in 2012.

We have deliberately not made any direct comparisons of donation numbers or levels between countries and regions in this report – to do so would be unfair for two main reasons.

First, the diverse nature of the social, cultural, political and economic landscapes in each region means that philanthropy is at very different stages of development. For example, philanthropy did not have a place in Russian society between the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, which is why contemporary Russian philanthropy is in its relative infancy.

Second, culture and tradition has a key influence on the nature of philanthropy and its visibility – donors in some regions prefer to keep their gifts more private. Altruism is evident across all jurisdictions covered in this report, but in some regions such as the Middle East, China and Hong Kong, this altruism is closely connected to the idea that donors should keep a low profile and give anonymously.

 

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HIGHER EDUCATION

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FOUNDATION

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HEALTH

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PUBLIC & SOCIAL BENEFIT

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HUMAN SERVICES

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GOVERNMENT

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OVERSEAS

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ARTS AND CULTURE

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HUMAN SERVICES

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ENVIRONMENT & ANIMALS

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EDUCATION NOT UNIVERSITIES

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RELIGIOUS

What the numbers say

But despite significant differences across the jurisdictions in this report, several key trends have emerged.

 

EDUCATION A POPULAR CHOICE

Our report confirms for the first time that higher education's popularity among million dollar donors goes further than just the UK and US. Million dollar donors across the six regions gifted a total of $7.05bn (37% of the total value) to higher education institutions in 2012.

$7.05bn

total donation

to higher education

Philanthropists, particularly in the UK and US, have long been associated with universities – John Harvard, for example, gave America's first major bequest in the 1630s, a donation that founded Harvard University.

But there are other reasons why universities are often favoured by million dollar donors, be they in the US, China, Russia, Hong Kong, Middle East (GCC) or the UK.

Universities, unlike many charities, are multi-million dollar organisations, capable of handling seven-figure donations, and there is a huge variety of activities that major donors can support, from cutting-edge scientific research and the building of new facilities to the provision of scholarships. Alumni are also a significant source of support.

 

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

Donors tend to focus on supporting organisations in their home country – overseas gifts accounted for just 5.6% of the total value of million dollar donations in all regions. However, the Middle East bucked the trend as 71% of its million dollar gifts went overseas. This could suggest that donors perceive that there are relatively greater needs in non-GCC Arab countries.

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FOUNDATIONS GIVE MORE GIFTS…

Foundations gave the largest number of million dollar donations in four out of the six regions, and they were the second most popular destination for million dollar gifts, receiving a total of $2.87bn. This shows that donors are institutionalising and professionalising their philanthropy, with many thinking long term through the establishment of endowments.

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FOUNDATIONS

$2.87bn

received in total

 

…BUT INDIVIDUALS GIVE MORE MONEY

While foundations gave more gifts, individuals gave more money. Individual donors gave a total of $8.8bn in all regions – 46% of the $19.04bn donated. There are several reasons for this. Many foundations try to spread out their giving, providing smaller gifts to a larger number of non-profit organisations. Individuals may also try to give smaller numbers of gifts that are worth a higher amount. Individuals often make large one-time gifts to endow their foundations, which then disburse the money in smaller grants over time.

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INDIVIDUALS

$8.8bn

gifted in total

It's not just numbers

The Million Dollar Donors Report is more than just numbers. An integral part of the report is the opinions we gathered from interviewing donors, charities and philanthropy experts across the regions – and several key themes emerged.

 

GROWING PROFESSIONALISATION

When the scale and longevity of philanthropy becomes significant, many establish foundations to formalise and sustain their philanthropy, with many establishing endowments. There is also an increasing desire to be 'strategic'. This may involve establishing a clear mission or objectives, providing unrestricted grants to back organisations they believe in, collaborating with other philanthropists, measuring impact or hiring professional staff.

 

MORE THAN MONEY

Without exception, the donors interviewed in this report do more than write cheques. Many are actively and passionately involved in their philanthropy, drawing on their skills and networks to achieve their goals.

 

SOCIAL INVESTMENT PICKS UP

Social investment aims to generate measurable social and /or environmental impact alongside a financial return. Also known as impact investing, this type of finance is on the rise.

 

WEALTH SUCCESSION

Philanthropy can be a key way to prepare the next generation for the opportunities and responsibilities of wealth. A number of donors interviewed for this report have even pledged to commit the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

Total

$19bn

donated in 2012

Trends in philanthropy across the regions

United Kingdom

£1.35bn

donated in 2012

98 donors

156 recipients

See report

United States

$13.96bn

donated in 2012

889 donors

986 recipients

See report

China

$1.18bn

donated in 2012

172 donors

147 recipients

See report

Russia

$239m

donated in 2012

18 donors

27 recipients

See report

Middle East

$727m

donated in 2012

25 donors

17 recipients

See report

Hong Kong

$877m

donated in 2012

47 donors

84 recipients

See report