Cathy Pharoah on Family Foundation Philanthropy in UK, Germany, Italy and US

Date: 27 Oct 2009


Main findings

The charitable expenditure of the largest 100 UK family foundations was worth £1.2 billion and increased by 10% in real terms in 2006/7.

This compared with 33.5% growth in the US; however, this high US result was largely due to the major gifts of Warren Buffett to the Gates Foundation: if these are excluded from the data, the growth rate in the US goes down to 8.4%.

РThe largest 100 German family foundations had a charitable expenditure of £491 million, equal to 42% of the UK figure, but 84% if the large Wellcome and Gatsby foundations, which significantly inflate the UK figures, are excluded.

-Data for Italy was less complete, but revealed that 12% of foundations are family foundations and that their combined charitable spending was a minimum of Euro90 million.

These comparative results show that, certainly before the recession, UK family foundation philanthropy was thriving and compared well with other countries.

Results for Germany are impressive given that the postwar years in East Germany undermined the role of private philanthropy and that benefits were largely provided by the state and by corporations. The US data shows individuals continuing to turn to foundations as a major way of achieving social impact and change.

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