Research Programme

An overview of the 3 main strands of our research programme:

Individual and Business Giving

Based at Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde, Spoke 1 is focusing on the history and emergence of entrepreneurial philanthropy, taking an international perspective, and exploring its challenges and appeal for new generations of philanthropists.

Historically individual and business philanthropy has played an important role in building the social and economic wealth of UK society. New approaches to philanthropy have been encouraged by changes in socio-economic and political environments and the emergence of a global economy. Increasingly individuals are choosing to redistribute their wealth within their lifetime and organisations are investing in charitable foundations; people and companies in the UK give about £13 billion per year to charities.

The research design involves three phases:

  • Secondary data is being used to create a detailed database of engaged philanthropists. This includes individuals and foundations actively involved in large scale and regular philanthropic endeavours and wealth redistribution.
  • From this database, purposive sampling will be used to identify a sample of individuals involved in wealth redistribution for depth-interviewing.
  • Finally a smaller purposive sample will be identified for further detailed case-study research.


Spoke one aims to generate significant understanding of contemporary approaches to philanthropy particularly the implications and effects of large scale and regular philanthropic commitments.

Charity and Social Redistribution

Based at the Universities of Kent and Southampton spoke 2 undertakes five major projects which respond to questions around charitable giving and social distribution. The projects will provide:

  • a clear quantitative picture of the distribution of registered charities and charitable resources across England and Wales, including a disaggregated picture of income sources and of the distribution of charitable assets
  • results of qualitative research on the contribution of the charitable sector to social well-being in a range of contrasting localities
  • a clearer understanding of how UK donors make moral judgements about the needs of others
  • updated data on perceptions of need and charitable benefit, the role that need plays in selecting beneficiaries, the size of the social space bridged by donations and the views of beneficiaries of their representation in fundraising materials
  • analyses of the philanthropic behaviour of UK corporations and the identity of their beneficiaries.

In relation to the programme specification, these projects will help us to:

  • improve our understanding of how and where charitable resources are used
  • answer the question of whether or not charity mitigates or reinforces social and economic inequalities
  • explore relationships between different types of donors and their beneficiaries.

Grant-making, Foundations and Household Giving

Spoke 3 research grouping was designated broadly as ‘institutional giving structures’; the researchers identifying the following themes for study:

The changing nature and strategies of the range of philanthropic vehicles – or ‘institutions’ - (the private and public foundation models, government giving channels) , data on their directions of giving and the leading institutions which they fund; also the public policy and public management structures and climates , which support or challenge those vehicles.

This theme is producing wide-ranging research (foundations’ strategic directions) . Its initial work is addressing theoretical and conceptual bases for philanthropy – choice, innovation, governance, rationing – all of which have important implications for fundraisers’ informed understanding of their working environments. Its annual publication of data on the UK’s largest institutional giving and receiving organisations (CMM) provides a critical data source, benchmark and analysis base for fundraisers.


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