Select Page

United Kingdom

European Research Network on Philanthropy

Institutional members

University of Kentkent
Center for Philanthropy


Beth Breeze
University of Kent
Center for Philanthropy
email: b.breeze@

The Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent was established in 2008 and has its headquarters in Canterbury, the United Kingdom. Major academic disciplines are philanthropic studies, social policy, and sociology. Key research topics are major donors, charitable giving, fundraising, voluntary action, and
philanthropic citizenship. Research questions addressed by the Centre are, among others:

  • What is the role and purpose of philanthropy?
  • Who gives, to what causes, and why?
  • What qualities and skills underlie successful fundraising?
  • How do children and young people learn to give?
  • Understanding the nature, challenges and opportunities of a Moonshot Philanthropy approach.

University of Oxford
Gradel Institue for Charity at New College


Peter Frumkin
University of Oxford
Gradel Institute for Charity at New College
email: peter.frumkin@

The Gradel Institute for Charity at New College at the University of Oxford was established in 2023 and has its headquarters in Oxford, the United Kingdom.  Academic disciplines are management, strategy, sociology, economics, and public policy. Key research topics are charity management, social impact, effectiveness, performance, and governance. Research questions addressed by the Institute are, among others: 

  • How can charity effectiveness and impact be measured?
  • How can board governance be transformed?
  • Do charities that rely on earned income grow faster than those that depend on contributions?
  • Do volunteers allow charities to deliver services more efficiently?
  • How can charity transparency and accountability be improved?

University of St Andrews
Centre for the Study of Philanthropy and Public Good


Tobias Jung
University of St Andrews
Centre for the Study of Philanthropy and Public Good
email: tj3@

The Centre for the Study of Philanthropy and Public Good at the University of St Andrews was established in 2016 and has its headquarters in St Andrews, the United Kingdom. Academic disciplines are public policy, management, and sociology. Key research topics are foundations, institutions of philanthropy, community/engaged philanthropy, history of philanthropy, socio-cultural roles, and norms
and expressions of philanthropy. Research questions addressed by the Centre are, among others:

  • What are the individual and organizational expressions and motives of philanthropy?
  • What are the theories, concepts and sites of philanthropy?
  • What is the story of philanthropy, and what lessons and insights does it offer across cultures, time and space?
  • How do philanthropy and society interact, and what are the effects, impacts and outcomes of philanthropic activities?
  • What are the different facets and expressions of public good, the accompanying policies and regulatory environments, and how do we identify, achieve and assess public good?


Introduction to research on giving in the United Kingdom

Barry Hoolwerf, Renske Sanders[1], John Mohan[2], Cathy Pharoah[3]

Charities in the UK receive funding from different sources. Within subsectors we notice differences in the funding mix of charities of the charity population. The picture is much more complex than might be implied by normative utterances, that charities are simply bodies funded by private donations.

Charities use resources derived from various sources in pursuit of their charitable objectives. There are plenty of studies that can deliver great examples of this in the UK. For example, there are studies of the proportion of the population engaged in giving to charity and the amounts they give, of variations over time and across birth cohorts in household giving (Smith et al., 2011), or of giving to particular causes (Atkinson et al., 2012). Other elements of the funding mix such as major (greater than £1 million) charitable donations (Breeze, 2014), or grantmaking by the UK’s largest charitable foundations (Pharoah et al., 2015), have also received attention.

All these studies have in common that they provide informative analyses of significant elements of charitable giving. But they still leave us in the position of not being able to see the whole picture. These studies enable us to identify parts of the size and scope of giving in the UK, but not in a position to comprehend the whole. However, an attempt to estimate the value of total private giving from all sources to charities has been made, estimating it to be worth £19 billion, including gift taxes paid back to charities on gifts (Pharoah et al., 2015).

Additionally, the aggregate statistics in the Annual Almanac of Civil Society (NCVO, 2015) provide a very broad picture of the income sources of charities, below which there is considerable variation between charitable causes and between individual organisations. Hence, the Annual Almanac of Civil Society will be an important source of information for the numbers presented in this chapter, next to the UK Giving of the Charities Aid Foundation.

Overview of Giving in the United Kingdom

Based on the information as available, we may conclude that data on philanthropic giving in the United Kingdom are available to some extent, but lacks standardized methods of data collection. This makes it difficult to compare different sets of data. Also, data collection is being conducted from the perspective of the income sources of charitable organisations, and not necessarily from the perspective of donors. This might result in errors when adding the figures to a total amount on the one hand, while missing donations made to organisations that are not part of the sample. The information below must thus be considered as an indication of the UK philanthropy sector, and nothing more. That being said, it is also worth making the point that the estimations are based on a sample of charity accounts covering over 90 % of the economic weight of the sector, measured in terms of income and expenditure (regarding giving by individuals in England and Wales), and are even more comprehensive for the other reports regarding giving by individuals. Underestimations are more likely for giving by corporations and foundations, but following the pareto principle we feel confident that the amounts presented represent the biggest share of charitable sources in the United Kingdom.

Table 1 Sources of contributions in millions

Sources of contribution million EUR percentage


In vivo(2010 & 2014)

Bequests (2014)

13 880 –  16 380

2 880

65 %

11 %

Corporations (2014)  917 –  2 750 11 %
Charity lotteries n/a n/a
Foundations ( 2014)  3 300 13 %
Total  25 310 100 %


[1] Center for Philanthropic Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

[2] Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham

[3] Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy Research at Cass Business School, City University of London


Hoolwerf, L.K., Sanders, R., Mohan, J. & Pharoah, C. (2017) Research on Giving in the United Kingdom. In: Hoolwerf, L.K. & Schuyt, Th.N.M. (eds) Giving in Europe. The state of research on giving in 20 European countries. Amsterdam: Lenthe Publishers.

A comprehensive profile and description of all data sources is available through the member portal.