Coutts and the University of Kent have launched the 6th annual Coutts Million Pound Donors report, which reveals that UK philanthropy is buoyant with the highest level of £1m+ donations in the UK in 2012 since the financial crisis in 2009, rising 9% from 2010/11 to £1.35bn in 2012.

Not only did the value of donations increase but so did the average donation size as more than half (56%) of all million pound gifts worth £2m or more.

Higher Education remains the most popular destination for million pound donations accounting for 42% of all million pound donations in 2012 while Arts and Culture fell slightly from 8% of all donations in 2010/11 to 7% in 2012.

This year, Coutts builds on the success of the Million Pound Donors Report to incorporate the US, Russia, Middle East (Gulf Cooperation Council), China and Hong Kong creating the Million Dollar Donors Report.

This analyses $1 million-plus giving by donors internationally in the six respective regions, compiled in association with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The findings can be found on a dedicated website:

The international report takes into account the vastly differing contexts in the regions studied and the varied stages of the development of philanthropy. It therefore deliberately does not major on cross-country comparison as this would be unfair.

Nevertheless, philanthropy in the UK is distinctive for the way the context for charitable activity is changing and how donors are responding to it. Specifically, with state funding to charities falling, donors are meeting this challenge in a number of ways. For example, they are:

  • Working together – UK donors are working together more than before to tackle emerging challenges.
  • – Foundations using all their assets – While debates about major philanthropy often focus on the nature and scale of donations, greater attention is being given to how foundations can use all their assets including endowments to achieve their goals.
  • – Social investment – The UK is one of the leading countries developing the thinking and practice of social investment which aims to generate measurable social and/or environmental impact as well as a financial return.

Mark Evans, managing director, Coutts Institute says: "We have tracked almost £9bn of donations in the UK since we launched the Coutts Million Pound Donors Report in 2007. Having put million pound donors on the map in the UK, we are delighted to be highlighting these philanthropic trends internationally. Not only is it clear that individuals, foundations and corporations, who are giving at this level, are making a significant impact in areas such as Higher Education, it’s also an opportunity to learn why they are making these decisions and how. By understanding the causes and communities million dollar donors are passionate about, the ideas they have and the ways they like to work with others we hope to inspire and inform philanthropists, charities and others at all levels."

Dr Beth Breeze, co-author of report, the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, said: "We are delighted that our work in compiling the annual Million Pound Donor Report has now extended to a global study of 7-figure gifts. Whether made in dollars or pound sterling, these largest donations are transformational for the recipient organisations and have a hugely enriching impact on the lives of the donors, as the fascinating case studies contained in this report attest.

The growing importance of philanthropy in countries all over the world needs to be accompanied by the growing availability of credible, useful data. This report makes a much-needed contribution to our global understanding of the frequency and the nature of transfers of private wealth in service of the public good."

Similarities UK philanthropy has with other regions covered in the international report include:

  • Education gets the most – 37% ($7.05bn) of the total value of million dollar donations across the six regions was gifted to Higher Education institutions in 2012. Foundations were the second most frequent recipient of $1 million dollar gifts, receiving a total of $2.87 billion from across the six regions.
  • Individuals give more money than Foundations or Corporations – Individual donors gave 46 percent of the $19.04 billion donated in all regions combined.
  • Charity begins at home – Donors tended to focus on supporting organisations in their home country – overseas gifts account for just 5.6 percent of the total value of $1 million donations in all regions. The Middle East bucked the trend: 71 percent of its $1 million gifts went abroad, mainly to non-GCC Arab countries.
  • Wealth succession – philanthropy is for many wealthy families a key dimension of wealth succession. In fact, a number of those interviewed for the report have committed a majority of their wealth to philanthropy.