Some of us might have read Charles Dickens' classic novel A Christmas Carol over the recent festive season.
Many more of us will have sat down and watched Michael Caine and a cast of Muppets take on the tale of the three ghosts who changed Ebenezer Scrooge from a celebrated skinflint to a committed philanthropist.
Could the malign spirit of Covid-19 have wrought a similar transformation for Britain’s charitable giving?
Certainly, at Coutts – where our clients exemplified a post-Ghost generosity of spirit even before the pandemic – the exigencies of the past two years have prompted an acceleration and change in charitable giving and philanthropic intent.
Since Covid struck, we have seen a huge increase in charitable donations by our clients, up from £24m in 2019 to £45m in 2020, while we have also seen a huge uptick in the number of clients setting up trusts and foundations.
It’s heart-warming stuff, and vital for the UK’s charities of all sizes. Many of them are still feeling the effects of much-reduced fundraising levels over the last few years, when everything from the London Marathon to Macmillan coffee mornings were unable to take place.
High-net-worth individuals and family foundations are stepping in to plug the gaps, and they are doing so in a more focused and deliberate way than ever before.
Where charities have struggled, our clients have acted with pragmatism and compassion. Many of the conversations we have had with clients this year have centred around addressing need where charities are struggling with loss of income.
By offering funding with fewer ‘strings attached’ and offering more time and expertise as well as financial resources, they have been able to make even more of a difference, and have built longer term relationships that will continue to benefit both parties going forward.
Giving has been more thoughtful, intentional, and strategic. Some clients have doubled down on those causes that were already important to them, particularly those such as education and child poverty where Covid has made the need even greater.
Others have thrown their net wider than before, supporting charities that are strengthening the global health system, fighting coronavirus and other illnesses through increasing hygiene, knowledge, clean water and medical supplies in the global south.
As a certified B Corp, the consideration of good social and environmental impacts runs through everything we do.
Whether it is using conversations with clients this New Year about stepping up philanthropy to give meaning and purpose to family wealth, or developing digital tools such as apps, blogs and podcasts to help our clients to respond in real-time to unfolding crises, helping our clients make the most of their giving is part of how we define our purpose.
By working with our clients over a period of years to cover the variety of their wealth needs, we can better understand what they want to achieve with their philanthropy, and ensure we support them on that journey.