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01 September 2016

Time to give?

We are a generous lot here in the UK. Annually Children in Need and Sports Relief raise record sums of money to help support communities around the UK and overseas, and according to The Sunday Times Giving List the wealthiest 1,000 people in the UK gave £2.66 billion to charity in 2015. Recent figures suggest that nearly 4 out of 5 people in the UK give time or money or both on a regular basis performing charitable, or what is often called, philanthropic actions.

Philanthropy is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes”. The most conventional modern definition states philanthropy consists of “private initiative for public good, focussing on the quality of life”.

Over the last 6 months there has been some negative press coverage about charities and some of the fund raising methods employed and a report published by the Charity Commission shows that public trust and confidence in charities has dropped for the first time in 10 years. Some charities are consequently having a harder time trying to fulfil their missions where they rely on the flow of funds to do so.

Interestingly there is an area of overlap between philanthropy and charity, but not all charity is philanthropy or vice versa. The difference usually cited is that charity relieves the pains of social problems whereas philanthropy attempts to solve those problems at their root causes — the difference between giving a hungry man a fish and teaching him how to fish for himself.

In our firm, we believe that charity and philanthropy go hand in hand and whilst gifts of money are vital, equally important is the sharing of our time and talents, and each can have a positive impact on both giver and receiver. As many of our clients are charities, individuals and businesses, we can see the merits of philanthropy from every perspective.

I saw a lady recently who was facing a crossroads in her personal life and wanted to embark on a new venture. In her sixties, she was wealthy and had considerable business experience but with no clear heirs, she was struggling to know how she could leave a legacy in the widest sense on her death. With a personal passion for two specific types of charitable causes, she was considering setting up her own charitable foundation but she didn’t know where to start or what her options were. She was particularly concerned about the ability of a smaller charity, a big part of her childhood, to manage large sums of money and was also keen to help in practical ways.

Over the course of several months together we looked closely at the smaller charity, and established some options for her. We helped her get in touch with them and she became involved in their education programme so she could be one of their ambassadors and talk about her experience of how the charity had helped her as a child. She then came on one of our training days we hold for those considering becoming a charity trustee, which gave her the confidence to take up that role and use her business development skills on their behalf.

UK family businesses are incredibly philanthropic as we found recently when we surveyed 300 of them; over 64% were involved in supporting charitable and community causes in some way. They feel a strong connection either via the family or through their staff to personal causes and want to help. A second generation family business owner with whom we work has set up his own family charitable foundation and donates 10% of his total earnings to it each year. His children are all trustees and are encouraged to take an active role in the decision making and strategy for its future.

Here in our Guildford office we have our own Charles Russell Speechlys Community Fund under the umbrella of the Community Foundation for Surrey to help young people in Surrey to widen their horizons and aspirations. Our employees are enthusiastic supporters of our Fund, and recently our staff panel were delighted to award our first grants to two amazing local projects, Skillway (Warehouse Christian Trust) and The Boileroom Originate CIC and we are looking forward to developing closer links with them as time goes on. We can proudly say that charity really does begin at “home”. 


Top tips for getting involved

  • Do your homework - Find out what you can about the charity on the Charity Commission Website
  • Attend a trustee workshop - Attend a trustee workshop to identify and develop your skills for charitable work
  • Set it up yourself - Think about setting up your own charity if needs be but be sure to seek some help to ensure that you meet the necessary requirements.


This article first appeared in Ionger form in Surrey Life September 2016 edition.


Sally Ashford is a partner in Charles Russell Speechlys’ private wealth practice, advising individuals and family business owners on ways to grow and protect family wealth. Sally also acts for many charity clients dealing with all aspects of legacy administration.

If you are interested in advice about becoming a Trustee or want further information about our training days, please contact Sally via email on sally.ashford@crsblaw.com or telephone +44 (0) 1483 252508.

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