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Entrepreneurial Philanthropy: Investigating ‘Big Giving’


Why do prominent business people, like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, seek to extend their reach in society beyond business and help to change the world?    

Findings from research examining the philanthropic experiences of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs, will be presented at a Newcastle University symposium today.

A team of academics, including Newcastle University’s Professor Charles Harvey, have looked at the ‘Philanthropic Journey’, showing how the super wealthy become benefactors with world-making ambitions such as wiping out malaria or combatting polio.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council's Centre for Charitable Giving (CGAP), investigates how entrepreneurs become influenced by the teachings of others, such as the pioneering philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, and how the social and cultural benefits of these encounters ultimately bring a greater economic influence.

Professor Harvey, member of the CGAP research team and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Humanities and Social Sciences at Newcastle University, said: “Our research is specifically concerned with entrepreneurs turned philanthropists and it helps to plot the way these wealthy individuals enter the world of charitable giving and what their background in business does for their chosen cause.

“We have found there is in fact a scientific aspect to giving at this level. Entrepreneurs bring business methods and disciplines to philanthropy: they don’t like wasting money and like to be focussed, they want things to be planned and their partners to be vetted.

“Our studies have also shown that philanthropy is not a one way street. Entrepreneurs benefit from forms of capital, like honorary titles, degrees and recognition. Their world becomes a lot richer, they meet interesting people and come to mix in very interesting circles. What they learn can be turned to economic advantage. The possession of this status and level of connections within the world helps you to build your philanthropy further over time.”

CGAP will reveal findings from the study today (Wednesday, 27 March) at a symposium event hosted by the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal at the city’s Great North Museum: Hancock, to learn how giving might be increased or encouraged.

Professor Harvey comments on the findings: “Most big charitable donations are not what could be considered ‘living-giving’. Often philanthropy comes out of an historical legacy, especially in the medical sector, where institutions like the Wellcome Foundation can give £800m in a year.

“It is very rare for wealthy givers to give more than two per cent of income in a year. If you look at Conrad Hilton, he gave $7m during his lifetime but decided to set up the Hilton Foundation, leaving all his wealth to charity after he died.”

Derry Nugent, Head of Philanthropy Services at the Community Foundation for Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, will chair a panel of leading local philanthropists to discuss their own experiences and what inspires them to engage with particular projects and causes.

Mrs Nugent said: “The level of giving relative to wealth and also need is nowhere near as high as it could or should be. What we witness is some very generous individuals among a lot of people who do little or nothing. This event will bring leading experts together to learn from each other and help to inspire more giving.”

Notes to editors:

About the event:

CGAP at the Universities of Newcastle and Exeter, the Community Foundation for Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, and the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal at Newcastle University have organised a symposium on 27th March at The Great North Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne.

The symposium entitled 'Contemporary Philanthropy and Social Renewal: learning from research and practice' brings together philanthropy professionals, researchers and philanthropists to consider the practical value of research conducted by members of CGAP.

The event will focus on the findings of a four year study of entrepreneurs turned philanthropists.
Read the programme (pdf).
Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal
Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland
The authorial team
• Charles Harvey, Newcastle University, UK
• Mairi Maclean, Exeter University Business School, UK
• Jillian Gordon, Strathclyde Business School, UK
• Eleanor Shaw, Strathclyde Business School, UK

About the Institute for Social Renewal
The Institute for Social Renewal, launched in February 2012, is part of Newcastle University’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Newcastle University has identified three societal challenge themes that will be a focus of its research into addressing global issues:
• The Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age is led by the Faculty of Medical Sciences and is based at the Campus for Ageing and Vitality.
• The Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability is led by the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering and is based in the Devonshire Building.
• The Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal is led by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

published on: 27 March 2013