July 17, 2010; Source: The Independent | Super-rich people in other nations appear to be stunned and dumbfounded by the recent announcements of American billionaires such as Microsoft’s Paul Allen and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, who are giving large proportions of their wealth to charity. The model of Andrew Carnegie has much more resonance among American billionaires than their counterparts in the U.K., but trends among Britain’s very, very wealthy are changing.
Like the U.S., a higher proportion of the U.K.’s richest people have made their money through entrepreneurial activity as opposed to inheriting their wealth. According to the managing editor of Philanthropy UK, the shift to earned rather than inherited wealth is leading to a blurring of the line between philanthropy and business, leading philanthropists to take very active roles in promoting social change, much like the hands-on approach favored by venture philanthropists in the U.S.
Some of the new business-oriented models generated in the U.K. are intriguing. The founder of Reed Recruitment, Alex Reed, established something called the “Big Give,” which both links donors to causes and adds in matching funding as a kicker. A disabled rights organization called Scope has created a program of private equity-style financing for charities.
While the super-wealthy in Britain tend to give to higher education and the arts like their U.S. peers, some of the biggest donors in the U.K. also emphasize a few charitable priorities a little out of the billionaire philanthropy mainstream. Hedge fund billionaire Chris Cooper-Hohn has given £500m to the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (managed by his wife Jamie) and additional money to the Clinton Foundation’s HIV/AIDS initiative. Scottish entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter whose money comes from real estate development has donated to the Clinton Foundation and a cause called Make Poverty History.
The aforementioned Alex Reed gave a 20 percent share of his business to his foundation which has given to Womankind Worldwide and Ethiopiaid as well as matching funding for the Big Give program. Someone might want to compare the extent to which social change gets the attention of Britain’s wealthiest philanthropists compared to those in the U.S.—Rick Cohen