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Events and podcasts

Understanding Voluntary Action: Past, Present and Future

Keynote speakers:

Professor Hugh Cunningham: Professor Emeritus of History, University of Kent. Author of The Reputation of Philanthropy Since 1750 (Manchester University Press)

  • Paper title: Philanthropy and Voluntary Action: 1750 to the present
  • Abstract: Since ‘philanthropy’ as a word was first used in the mid-eighteenth century it has undergone significant changes. It started as a feeling of love of humanity, requiring no action, and has become, through a number of permutations, a descriptor of the donations made by the rich to good causes. It has also attracted a considerable body of criticism. I will explore how this history relates to the idea of ‘voluntary action’, whose provenance is similar to that of philanthropy. At times in the past they have seemed to be very close to one another, but at others distant, even antagonistic.


Dr Jon Dean: Reader in Politics and Sociology, Sheffield Hallam University. Author of The Good Glow: Charity and the Symbolic Power of Doing Good (Policy Press, 2020)

  • Paper title: The present of voluntary action
  • Abstract: This short presentation provides an overview of several key sociological issues for the study and understanding of voluntary action. This includes the role of self-interest and altruism in giving decisions, the weaponization of charity symbols, and thinking through what counts as voluntary action. It concludes by arguing that we need to remember to connect what happens in the voluntary sector to wider social forces and issues.

Professor Ilana Silber: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bar-Ilan University, with expertise in gift theory, repertoires of cultural discourses and emotions in philanthropy, currently working on justifications and critiques of elite philanthropy.

  • Paper title: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”: Mega Giving as Cultural and Democratic Conundrum
  • Abstract: My talk will discuss the ambiguous position of elite philanthropy in contemporary liberal democratic context, where it is undergoing extensive expansion on the one hand but also facing mounting criticism and public distrust on the other. I shall aim to provide a “road map” to the recent flood of critiques of mega philanthropy deployed in a range of media and influential publications. In such perspective, contemporary elite philanthropy emerges as an arena besieged by intense cultural dilemmas and societal contradictions, with challenging implications for the operation of public giving as a vector of civic action and commonality in our times.


Overview of new books written by Civil Society research cluster members

  • Dr Ali Body: Children’s Charities in Crisis: Early Intervention and the State – watch the talk
  • Dr Kate Bradley: Lawyers for the Poor: Legal Advice, Voluntary Action and Citizenship in England, 1890-1990 – watch the talk
  • Dr Corey Wrenn: Piecemeal Protest: Animal Rights on the Age of Nonprofits – watch the talk

Understanding fundraising:13 February 2017

  • A day for practitioners and academics to discuss the latest research and insights into understanding fundraising.
  • We are delighted to announce two excellent Keynote speakers:
  • Professor Adrian Sargeant, Director of the Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University, UK; author of numerous books on fundraising and the world’s first professor of fundraising.
  • Dr Sarah Nathan, Associate Director of The Fund Raising School at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana, USA.

Rosenwald UK film premiere: 23 October 2016

  • We are delighted to help shine a spotlight on one donor who ought to be a household name, by hosting the UK film premiere of Rosenwald, a film by Aviva Kempner.

Understanding philanthropy conference: 29 June 2015

  • As part of the University of Kent’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, this event saw us welcome leading academic and practitioner speakers to Kent. It was open to people on and off campus, including present staff, students and members of the governing council, our alumni, funders and partners, as well as local stakeholders, such as Kent charities, who have a keen interest in this topic.

VSSN day conference: Money, money money! Getting and spending in the voluntary sector: 27 November 2014

  • The Voluntary Sector Studies Network’s November Day Conference includes two presentations from the Centre for Philanthropy. Dr Beth Breeze and Professor Angie Eikenberry (the University of Nebraska at Omaha) will present on Giving Circles in the UK and Ireland and Dr John McLoughlin will present on Unillusioned philanthropy and fundraising.
  • The conference was held in Central London on Thursday 27th November, 10am-4pm. More details are available on the VSSN website.

Volunteers who ask: Unpaid fundraisers in Kent: 4 November 2014

  • As part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science 2014, this free event included the launch of a report on fundraising by volunteers and presentations on a range of topics by experienced charity professionals.
  • This event was run by Dr Eddy Hogg. Please contact him for further details.

Evolve 2014: 16 June 2014

  • Dr Beth Breeze presented some of her research into fundraising at NCVO’s Evolve 2014 conference.
  • The one-day event ran on Monday 16th June at The Brewery and Montcalm Hotel, London.

The big society: new policy agenda or yesterday’s news? 20 March 2014

  • Prof Pete Alcock (University of Birmingham) delivered a presentation at our SSPSSR Research Seminar.
  • Prof Alcock’s full presentation can be watched here.

Institute of fundraising major donors conference 2014: 3 March 2014

Get funded in Kent 2014: 29 January 2014

Centre for philanthropy 5th anniversary: October 2013

  • In October 2013 the Centre for Philanthropy celebrated its 5th anniversary with an event at the Collyer-Fergusson Music Building at the University of Kent, attended by around 100 guests from charities, academia and others who have been supportive of the Centre since its founding in 2008.

19th annual voluntary sector and volunteering research conference: 10-11 September 2013

  • Eddy Hogg and Beth Breeze delivered a presentation entitled Philanthropy journeys: a life-course approach to understanding high-income donors.
  • Caroline Walsh delivered a presentation entitled Exploring barriers and constraints that specific groups with physical needs may face when potentially considering volunteering as part of their scuba diving experiences
  • Beth Breeze delivered a presentation as a Guest Speaker in the New Researchers Session entitled Beyond the ivory towers: how to have an impact and involve users in your research.

ERNOP 6th international conference: Challenges for research on philanthropy: 11-12 July 2013

  • Eddy Hogg delivered presentations entitled Who Gives, Who Gets and on Constant, Serial and Trigger Volunteers.

Voluntary action history society 5th international conference: 10-12 July 2013

  • Beth Breeze delivered a presentation entitled Towards a History of Fundraising in the UK.
  • Charlotte Clements delivered a presentation entitled Mitigating policy failure: London housing and the local voluntary sector response 1958-1974.

Social justice philanthropy: Implications for practice and policy: March 2013

  • In March 2013 staff from the Centre for Philanthropy ran a conference at the NCVO which brought together academics, policy-makers and practitioners, in order to gain a greater understanding about how philanthropy operates in practice and the moral judgments that underpin charitable giving. More details about the day, including a number of the papers presented, is available here.

Centre for philanthropy launch event: November 2008
Professor Nicholas Deakin

  • In November 2008, Beth Breeze, Balihar Sanghera and Iain Wilkinson presented a paper at the SSPSSR research seminar series with the title: ‘All you need is love? Understanding philanthropy in contemporary UK society’.
  • This took place at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent.
  • After the seminar, we hosted a launch reception in Darwin College Conference Suite.

Speakers included:

  • Professor Nicholas Deakin, CBE, Chair of ESRC Research Centre For Charitable Giving and Philanthropy
  • Vice Chancellor of the University of Kent
  • Professor Sarah Vickerstaff, Head of School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Event downloads

  • Who makes £1 million + donations, and why? – Powerpoint presentation by Beth Breeze at Institute of Fundraising Major Donor Conference 6 March 2017
  • ‘The Problem of Philanthropy’ podcast at the British Library on 1 March 2016
  • Powerpoint presentation at the Researchers in Fundraising conference held in London on 28 November 2011
  • Powerpoint presentation and speaking notes form the Raising Funds from the Rich conference held in London on the 6 December 2011
  • ‘What do we know about major donors at the start of the 21st century?’ – the presentation was given at VU University, Amsterdam in April 2010 – Download a PDF of the slideshow
  • Beth Breeze’s presentation on Million Pound Donors given at the European Association for Planned Giving event on 11 March 2009 and accompanying slides. (PDF) (PPT)
  • Beth Breeze’s presentation at the Guardian event on ‘Surviving the Crash: Your charity in 2009’
  • Beth Breeze’s paper and see here the slides (PDF) for her talk on ‘why the recession could be the making of philanthropy’, given at Newcastle University on 24 February 2009.