Centre for Philanthropy

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Understanding Philanthropy, April 2024

Thanks to everyone who joined us for Understanding Philanthropy, the Centre’s annual conference. It took place on 19th April 2024 in Canterbury. Our fantastic speakers included Fozia Irfan OBE on transformative philanthropy, Tom Steinberg on modern grantmaking, and Mark Phillips on what fundraisers are doing wrong. We also showcased Kent philanthropy research.

If you would like to watch the sessions from the day, we have been given permission by the presenters to make the following sessions available:

Finally, a huge thanks to all our speakers and to everyone who joined us on the day to make this such a fantastic conversation.

The Centre for Philanthropy Team


Centre for Philanthropy 15th birthday lecture, 9 November 2023

To celebrate the 15th birthday of the Centre for Philanthropy, we were joined by Michael Seberich, Managing Director of Wider Sense, as part of the Philanthropy Past, Present and Future event.  Michael’s lecture, on The Philanthropy Dilemma, highlighted some of the current issues and challenges in philanthropy. You can watch a recording of Michael’s lecture here.


Annual Shirley Lecture, 9 November 2023

This autumn saw the return of the annual Dame Stephanie Shirley Lecture. This was part of Philanthropy Past, Present and Future, at which the Centre celebrated its 15th birthday.

The UK Philanthropy Archive at the University of Kent Special Collections and Archives were delighted to have Orlando Fraser KC, Chair of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, speak at the event.

Orlando shared his perspective on the role and benefits of philanthropy in the UK, and also set out what role he sees for the Charity Commission in this area.  You can read the full speech here: 2023 Shirley Lecture Speech by Orland Fraser. 

Orlando Fraser


You can watch a recording of Orlando’s speech here.




Annual Shirley Lecture, 12 October 2022

This autumn saw the return of the annual Dame Stephanie Shirley Lecture.

The UK Philanthropy Archive at the University of Kent Special Collections and Archives were delighted to have Fran Perrin OBE, co-founder and director of the Indigo Trust, speak at the event.

Fran’s talk was on the importance of open data in philanthropy – you can read the full speech here: 2022 Shirley Lecture Speech by Fran Perrin

Fran Perrin OBE

The event was a great opportunity for networking and discussion about philanthropy, grant making, open data and leadership.

Fran Perrin speaking

Follow UK Philanthropy Archive at: @UniKentUKPA

What role for philanthropy in health care and research? Before, during and after the pandemic

A webinar exploring the role for philanthropy in health care and research hosted by the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent on Wednesday 24 March 2021.

Britain’s publicly funded healthcare system, the NHS, enjoys deep and widespread support, accounting for around £200 billion of public spending in 2020. In addition, private donors are enthusiastic voluntary supporters of health-related activity, providing an additional c.£2 billion of income last year. Whether measured by the number of donors or by total amounts given,‘medical research’ and ‘hospitals and hospices’ count amongst the top five causes in all recent years. In April 2020 a third (35%) of the population reported donating to hospitals and hospices.

In this online event, aimed at both researchers and practitioners, we explored the role of philanthropy in health care and research, with leading academics and keynote speakers helping to explain and reflect on the role of private giving before, during and after the global pandemic:

Research: The role of philanthropy in funding treatment, cures and vaccines

  • Chair: Dr Beth Breeze, Director, Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent
  • Speaker: Paul Ramsbottom OBE, CEO of the Wolfson Foundation – on how they approach what to fund in the health sphere and why they were funding infectious disease and vaccine research in advance of the pandemic

Relief: Captain Sir Tom Moore and the NHS Charities

  • Chair: Professor John Mohan, Director, Third Sector Research Centre,
    University of Birmingham
  • Speaker: Adrian Beney of More Partnerships, who supported NHS Charities Together – on the inside story of coping with the incredible public response not only to Sir Tom Moore’s fundraising, which raised more than £32 million, but also the other £100 million that was given, and explaining why and how the NHS uses charitable donations for the benefit of staff and patients.

Rebuilding: health care charities

  • Chair: Dr Jurgen Grotz, Director, Institute for Volunteering Research,
    University of East Anglia
  • Speakers: Dr Helen Bowcock, Chair of Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex, and Lydia Todd, Challenge events fundraiser, Pilgrims hospice – on how their organisations interact with the NHS, their reliance on private support and the challenge faced in fundraising during the pandemic and going forward.

The event was kindly supported by: Pears Foundation

Organised in partnership with Kent and Medway Medical School; TSRC Informing Civil Society; the Institute for Volunteering Research at the University of East Anglia; and the University of Kent Civil Society research cluster

Understanding Voluntary Action: Past, Present and Future (May 2020)

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

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See also

Podcasts by Centre for Philanthropy academics