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Survey Finds The British Public Think Charitable Philanthropists Are Self-Serving Tax-Avoiders

Wed Nov 11 2020

Almost a third of respondee’s don’t think philanthropists are healthy for society

Whilst the majority of people agree that philanthropy can only make society better, in a recent report published by the Centre For Philanthropy at the University of Kent, almost a third of people didn’t.

The report, titled Philanthropy Paradox: Public Attitudes and Future Prospects for Planned Giving, and written by Beth Breeze, the director of the Centre for Philanthropy, also found that most people in the UK were extremely reluctant to discuss their own charitable donations to the NonProfit sector.


The report, conducted in November and December of 2019, interviewed 1,215 members of the public from a cross-section of backgrounds, found that whilst 83.7% of people agreed charitable giving helped make ‘things better’ for other people and society as a whole, 30.6% didn’t think philanthropists were healthy for society.

Combined with that, 55.2% of the respondee’s didn’t trust rich philanthropists to “do what is right with their donations”.

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Whilst the fruits of philanthropy are largely unproblematic, there is growing criticism of those providing the funding.

Beth Breeze - Director of the Centre for Philanthropy

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Part of the study went on to ask the public to define what the word philanthropist meant to them.

Although 52% used words like words generous, kind, giving, care, helpful, charitable, humane, wealthy, rich and donor, 10% of all responses included references to wealth or money with 82 negative words appearing that included cheat, condescending, self-serving, tax-avoider, undemocratic and untrustworthy.

In part due to this, the report found that many people who regularly donated large amounts to charity often resisted being described as a philanthropist out of fear of sounding pompous or out of touch.

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It’s worth recognising that philanthropy has long been a problematic word and concept, attracting both admiration and scepticism. But in recent years philanthropy has got increasingly caught up in the crossfire of debates about wealth and inequality, and its positive value has been affected as a result. This is an untenable situation – it does not make sense to think well of donations but not donors, nor is it sensible to continue with low levels of understanding of the existing incentives to encourage giving. As we emerge from the current crisis, part of rebuilding our civic society must involve tackling problematic public perceptions in order to remove barriers to giving. We need to make a greater effort to better understand and address the slippage between appreciating what donations achieve and those who make the donations, and to increase efforts to educate the public on the range of available tax reliefs and appropriate vehicles for making charitable donations.

Beth Breeze - Director of the Centre for Philanthropy

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The report concluded that there need to be a “wider and more successful explanation of the purpose of philanthropy and the benefits it brings for donors, beneficiaries and wider society… Only then can we hope to continue building a stronger culture of giving in the UK.”

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Wed Nov 11 2020

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