Million-pound giving in the UK saw a significant increase in 2015 to an overall total of £1.83bn, the highest figure since the financial crisis of 2008/2009.

The number of donations increased by 19% (355 compared to 298 in 2014) and the overall value increased by 17% from 2014 (£1.56bn in 2014). While 2015 did not see any 'mega gifts' of £100m+, the total was boosted by four single donations worth £30m or more, two of which were 'banked' in foundations and two given to universities.

Higher education continues its dominance as the main recipient of philanthropy at this level, accounting for over one-third (35%) of the total value. However, more organisations are benefiting from million-pound gifts. The number of distinct recipients rose by nearly 10%, while beneficiaries of multiple gifts included arts, culture and heritage organisations, health and medical charities and those supporting children and young people in the UK and overseas.

As in previous years, London is the source of the majority of million-pound gifts, although donations came from almost every region of the UK. International donors continue to play an important role in supporting charitable activities in the UK, with 28 donations (10% of the total value) coming from overseas.

Number and value of Million Pound Donations

The upward trajectory of million-pound gifts saw a significant jump in 2015.



Total value of donations worth £1m+


Total number of donations of £1m+

In 2015, 166 donors made 355 charitable donations worth £1m or more, with a total value of £1.83bn. This is an impressive increase of 19% in the number of donations and an increase of 17% in overall value. 

Encouragingly, we found 35 first time million pound donors in 2015.

Average size of Million Pound Donations

The average donation size decreased slightly in 2015.

The mean donation decreased slightly from 2014, reflecting both the increase in the number of donations and the absence of any major outliers of £100m+.

The median donation (the middle value when they are placed in ascending order) increased slightly from £2m to £2.5m. The mode (the value that occurs most often) remained constant at £1m.



in 2015


in 2014


in 2013



in 2015


in 2014


in 2013



in 2015


in 2014


in 2013

Value of Million Pound Donations

Gifts of £10m+ increased in 2015.

We did not see any single 'mega gifts' of £100m+ in 2015. However, gifts in the eight figure range increased significantly, with 47 donations worth £10m or more compared to 34 in the previous year.

The highest overall donation of £137.71m was from the Wellcome Trust to the University of Oxford (although this was made across a number of separate grants). The largest single donation of £60.75m went to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation from Lord Sainsbury, followed by £42.88m from Sir Clive Cowdery to The Resolution Foundation.


Source of Million Pound Donations

The balance of giving across the three donor types remained relatively stable, although foundations nudged back ahead.

Foundations accounted for over half the total value of million-pound gifts, increasing their share to 55% (51% in 2014), and for 66% of the number of gifts. While individuals and corporations both increased the amount they gave in 2015, as a proportion of the overall total corporations declined slightly from 23% to 20% and individuals from 25% to 24%.

Despite the slight decrease in overall value, it is encouraging to see that corporations are maintaining giving at the higher levels we have seen in recent years, having accounted for only 10% of the value of gifts before 2012.

Three donations were made from unknown or anonymous sources, accounting for a value of £13,710,000 or 1% of the total.




55% of total value in 2015





24% of total value in 2015





20% of total value in 2015

Location of Million Pound Donations

London remains the hub of UK philanthropy.

As in previous years, London retained its status as the centre of UK philanthropy
with 260 gifts (71% of the total value) originating in the capital. However, million-pound donors can be found almost everywhere across the country.

The South East and South West accounted for 25 donations between them (8.5% of the total value), while donors across the North East and North West made 16 gifts (3% of the total value).

International donors continue to play an important role in supporting charitable activities in the UK, with 28 donations (10% of the total value) coming from 12 countries including China, Norway and the USA. 



71% London

1.5% North West

3% South East

1.5% Wales

1.5% North East

0.1% Yorkshire

1% East

0% Northern Ireland

5.5% South West

1.5% West Midlands

1% East Midlands

0.5% Scotland

Recipients of Million Pound Donations

More organisations are receiving million-pound gifts.

There were 267 distinct recipients of million-pound gifts, up from 243 the previous year. In keeping with every edition of this report, most recipients (218, or 82%) received just one donation.

However, the number of organisations securing multiple gifts is on the rise. Last year, only 29 recipients received more than one donation. This year it was 49, of which 16 received three or more gifts.

The range of causes attracting multiple gifts is also becoming more diverse. While universities and foundations are still the most likely recipients of more than one million-pound donation, 2015 saw arts and culture organisations benefit too, alongside health and medical charities and those supporting children and young people in the UK and overseas.


total recipients

in 2015

Distribution of Million Pound Donations

After allowing foundations a brief turn in the top spot in 2014, higher education resumed its long held position as the primary destination for million-pound gifts, accounting for over one-third of the overall value in 2015.

While higher education continues to dominate, other causes saw a rise in support from million-pound donors compared to the previous year. Arts and culture, overseas organisations and public benefit causes all saw significant uplift, in some cases more than doubling their total value from 2014. Meanwhile, health as a sub-sector received less than half the total value recorded in last year’s report. 





355 gifts of £1m+


Higher Education


85 gifts of £1m+




79 gifts of £1m+


Overseas [2]


67 gifts of £1m+


Arts, culture & humanities


37 gifts of £1m+


International [1]


20 gifts of £1m+


Human Services


24 gifts of £1m+




14 gifts of £1m+


Public & societal benefit


10 gifts of £1m+




6 gifts of £1m+


Environment & animals


5 gifts of £1m+


Education (not universities)


7 gifts of £1m+


Unknown / Other


1 gift of £1m+


[1] The ‘International’ category here refers to funding for international development, regardless of the location of the recipient charity. This is in line with the classification used in the Million Pound Donors Report since 2008, but different to the definition of ‘International’ used to categorise donations in the other regions. In the other regions, ‘International’ is based solely on geographical factors and refers to donations to organisations headquartered in the reporting region but whose work takes place primarily outside that region.

[2] ‘Overseas’ relates to recipients based in a country other than the UK.