Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have teamed up with groups from the universities of Strathclyde, Kent, Southampton, and Cass Business School to form a new centre that will support research into charity and philanthropy.
The UK's first research centre for charitable giving and philanthropy launched in mid-February and is funded through a partnership of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Office of the Third Sector (OTS) in the Cabinet Office, the Carnegie UK Trust and the Scottish Government.
Carnegie UK Trust Chief Executive, Charlie McConnell highlighted the importance of four UK universities working together to enhance research and development support for charitable trusts and foundations.
He said: "It is a reflection of the explosion of charitable giving and philanthropy in recent years, and we believe it will enable the sector to make a more effective contribution towards addressing social, economic and environmental challenges in the UK and internationally."
The collaborative effort aims to build a better understanding of charitable giving and philanthropy among third sector organisations—i.e. charitable and voluntary organisations—government, and business in the hope of helping to increase support for the public good.
Phil Hope, Minister for the third sector commented: "Having a dedicated research centre for giving will help us to better understand the motivations behind why people give and the reasons why they choose to give in particular ways."
The centre will support high-quality research aimed at influencing policy and practice decisions in the UK, as well as developing knowledge and theory about charitable and philanthropic issues.
Professor Jenny Harrow from Cass Business School, the director of the new centre, commented: "We aim to be a centre of excellence for independent, high quality, innovative, strategic research, enhancing the evidence base to inform charitable giving and philanthropy development, as well as a hub for engaging national and international stakeholders, for capacity development and knowledge exchange."
Jenny Harrow and Cathy Pharoah, co-directors of the centre, stressed the necessity of increased understanding of philanthropy in an article written for the launch of the centre. Their research aims to provide insights into the problems facing many philanthropic associations in the current economic climate: “Charities are constantly urged to demonstrate that they are not wasteful and are in tune with the times and so even more attractive to donors,” they wrote.
"They will understandably baulk at external admonitions to tighten their belts and get by on less, yet a recession may be precisely the time when they are encouraged to demonstrate just how many resources they need to perform effectively.”
Of the centre’s three research initiatives, the first will explore the structures of individual and corporate giving, examining the current challenges to traditional patterns of giving as well as the recognition of social returns on charitable investment.
The second initiative will investigate the effect of charitable activity on social and economic inequalities, including the relationship between fundraising and the distribution of resources.
The third will explore the structures of institutionalised giving, including the creation and relevance of charitable institutions, as well as exploring the emergence of new forms of philanthropy and the development of partnerships between the state and charities.