Centre for Philanthropy

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Current research projects

  • Unleashing Children’s Philanthropic Power – Whilst many scholars in our field frequently focus on how to get donors to give more, and more frequently, including how to grow children as givers, this study critically explores the ways we teach children to give, focusing on how ideas of benevolence and activism are framed within these experiences. It argues that children’s giving is commonly framed by philanthropic scholars, politicians, charities and media, within a discourse of individualistic character virtues. Virtuous approaches to philanthropy emphasise individual virtues and care for others, but often fail to fully address or consider systemic challenges underlying social issues. Instead, this study, drawing on interviews with civil society leaders, case study analysis, media discourse analysis and research with children, calls for approaches to cultivating philanthropy which are more transformative, democratic, inclusive and socially just orientated. This involves actively questioning systemic issues, promoting collective action and critiquing philanthropy itself. Empowering children with the tools and knowledge to engage meaningfully in philanthropic actions can support them being and becoming active and compassionate citizens, driving transformation and progress. As we move towards a more transformative philanthropic perspective, we can create a more just and equitable society for all. The book from this project, by Dr Alison Body, ‘Children as Change Makers: Unleashing Children’s Philanthropic Power’ is due for publication in Spring 2024.
  • Educating for Social Good – Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (2021-2024), this research offers the first, nationwide, multi-disciplinary, critical analysis of how philanthropic behaviours and attitudes are encouraged in primary schools in England. We are exploring how individuals are taught to give, particularly formally in school, most commonly as part of citizenship education, and how children’s experience of having some agency (or not) impacts their philanthropic learning experience. Our research seeks to explore primary education as a vital space where children develop deeper understanding about giving by actively participating in giving decisions, community action, social action and social change. This project seeks to provide a look at what is happening by mapping activity within schools across the country; why this is happening, by interviewing over 100 primary school teachers; and how children’s lived experiences are of philanthropic action are shaped within education, by carrying our participatory action research with children across ten case study schools – see https://research.kent.ac.uk/children-as-philanthropic-citizens/ for more details and publications to date.
  • Moonshot Philanthropy – In Summer 2023 we begin work on an exciting new research project to bring clarity to the concept and practice of ‘moonshot philanthropy’ as a means to achieving the key challenges facing humanity, as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The costs of financing the SDGs was running short by $2.5 trillion per annum before the Covid pandemic and according to the OECD the gap may reach $4.2 trillion per annum post-pandemic. There is therefore an urgent need to understand how best to reduce this gap. Philanthropists are known to have different risk appetites, with some seeking more certain outcomes and others being willing to pursue a ‘moonshot’ approach. This research project will focus on the latter, generating new evidence of the existence and effectiveness of this concept to explore and communicate how risk-taking capital can be best harnessed to achieve the type of disproportionate and disruptive change necessary to achieve the SDGs. For more details, see https://research.kent.ac.uk/philanthropy/moonshot-philanthropy/
  • Philanthropy advising – We interviewed 40 philanthropy advisors in 15 countries to map the landscape of philanthropy advising, identifying what the work involves, what kind of people are doing it, and how it relates to the broader philanthropy sector and criticisms about philanthropy. This research developed from the ‘Advising Donors module on our Masters programme which Emma Beeston and Dr Beth Breeze co-designed and co-teach every Summer term. An overview of the study’s findings is available in this short film:
  • Defending Philanthropy – Whilst critique is an important aspect of scholarly and useful for improving philanthropy, this study explores whether criticisms have gone too far in over-stating the problematic aspects of private giving and undermining its positive role and potential. A series of discussions and interactions with philanthropists and practitioners across the world culminated in the publication of In Defence of Philanthropy’ (2021) which won the 2021 Skystone Research prize and was described by the Wall Street Journal as “A masterly takedown… a badly needed rebuttal to the rising chorus of denunciations directed at high-profile donors”

Past research projects

  • The Formation of Fundraisers: Dr Beth Breeze received funding from the Leverhulme Trust for a three-year project which explored how fundraisers’ personalities interact with their professional skills to affect the amount of money they raise for good causes.
  • Giving Circles in the UK: in collaboration with Dr Angie Eikenberry of the University of Nebraska, this project looked at giving circles in the UK.
  • Beacon Project – 50 Years of Philanthropy at the University of Kent: as part of the University’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, this project involved research into the history of philanthropy at and to the University, and included a number of debates on philanthropy and a major international conference.
  • Rising to the Challenge – a study of philanthropic support for unpopular causes: this project explored the uphill struggle that some charities face when seeking to fundraise. Such charities may support issues which are complex to communicate, may have beneficiaries who don’t easily engage donors’ emotions and may not be able to easily identify potential donors.
  • Who Gives, Who Gets: the final part of the CGAP programme at the Centre for Philanthropy, this project looked at the social space bridged by donations.
  • Coutts Million Pound Donor Report
  • Philanthropic Journeys: this research was carried out in collaboration with the charity Pilotlight and looked at pathways in and out of volunteering and giving across the life course.
  • Re-examining Corporate Philanthropy: this project, part of the CGAP programme at the Centre for Philanthropy, looked at the perspectives from the shop floor on corporate philanthropy.
  • Charity and social distribution
  • Social Justice Philanthropy: Implications for Policy and Practice: This study offered a critical appreciation of social justice philanthropy by investigating ‘social justice’ funders, foundation trustees and leaders. By exploring how a number of foundations and individual philanthropists pursue social justice and change, we learnt how they made judgments about what and to whom to give, what moral resources, traditions, customs and rules they drew upon in reaching their evaluation about giving, and what they mean by social justice philanthropy. The research team consisted of John Mohan, Balihar Sanghera and Kate Bradley.
  • Richer Lives: Why Rich People Give: In 2013 we worked with the author of ‘Why Rich People Give’, to produce a ten-year update of this seminal work. Data collection included: surveys and interviews with major donors, philanthropy advisers and other influential figures in the UK philanthropy sector. This work was funded by The Pears Foundation, with matched funding from the University of Kent. For further information please contact the lead researchers Beth Breeze or Theresa Lloyd