Joyful Givers


Chapter 1: Introduction, Methodology, Acknowledgements
Chapter 2: It isn’t easy being rich
Chapter 3: It's not mine, in any case
Chapter 4: Generation gap
Chapter 5: Trusting the data
Chapter 6: More than mechanics – telling the story of transformation

This report is also available in PDF format.

Two-thirds of people in the UK give to charity and Tearfund is one of the many organisations which benefits from this generosity.

As a Christian relief and development organisation, our voluntary income comes primarily from churches and individual Christians, some of whom are able to give large amounts over many years. We decided to speak to some of the people who were giving at scale, to help us explore Christian philanthropy and impact reporting.

Our research was purely qualitative, and we wanted to gather insights which would help us understand how best to share our learning about the importance of mindset shifts at individual and community level in tackling poverty reduction. We did this primarily through freeform interviews which allowed room for those being interviewed to give as much detail as they chose relating to their approach to philanthropy, their experience as a charitable donor and their interest in poverty reduction. And we held three breakfast roundtables to explore how best to engage philanthropists in understanding the transformation that a church-based approach can bring.

We spoke to people giving from capital and people giving from income; people running family trusts or employed by one to scrutinise proposals; people with high sums of relatively disposable income or those giving sacrificially from modest incomes and living very simply in order to do so. We went to Northern Ireland, Scotland, London, south-east England, and interviewed people from other parts of the UK too. We interviewed people who were approaching retirement, and those starting out in their careers. Some people had been born in the UK, others hadn’t.

‘Joyful Givers’ feels like a slightly schmaltzy title but it’s in fact a fair reflection of the attitude expressed by the Christian philanthropists we met for this research. People who talked about their Christian faith in relation to their philanthropy were excited - with varying levels of effusiveness; we’re British, after all - by generosity.

As we outline, this isn’t something they often discuss. Perhaps that’s why their delight was so evident - all their excitement came pouring out in one go.

It’s so much fun.

There’s a pleasure in doing something worthwhile where you don’t get anything out of it for yourself, but you hope someone else benefits.

As we had hoped, we gathered helpful insights into effective impact reporting. And we also learnt some extremely interesting things: about people’s attitudes to money, generosity and social justice, and the ways their faith drives their giving. People had mixed experiences of church life and strong feelings about the importance of encouraging younger adults to practise generosity.

We spoke to lots of people - 100 in total - through individual interviews and breakfast roundtables. Most were actively giving to charitable organisations, while others were experts in impact reporting or philanthropy. Our interviews were with people who were known to Tearfund, either as supporters or as people with a strong interest in our areas of work. Given that Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency, our sample was strongly Christian and this is heavily reflected in their insights.

In terms of the sample, we know that:

  • 94 people are actively involved in philanthropy and were speaking to us on that basis, while 6 people are working specifically in impact reporting, not-for-profit leadership or philanthropic advice.
  • 97 people are primarily based in the UK (some have postings overseas for business, but have property here and consider themselves to be British), 3 are in the USA.
  • Of the UK sample, most are based in England, although a sizable sample (25) are in Northern Ireland. We interviewed 11 people in Scotland.
  • 92 people self-identify as Christians and are actively attending church and pursuing their faith in community with others.
  • Most of the sample are over 50 years of age, with just 7 being under the age of 35.
  • 4 of the people we interviewed are programme officers for trusts and foundations so manage funding on behalf of others rather than giving from their own wealth.

To help us narrow our field of research, we set out to interview people who were able to give sums of £10,000 a year or more to each organisation they support. (Of course, some people were giving significantly more than that, and we also interviewed some younger professionals with an interest in philanthropy who aimed to give £10,000 a year in future.) Among those people, we found a range of opinions about how much it was appropriate to give, all of which were expressed in the context of Christian teaching and practice.

We didn’t gather income or wealth data during the research but from the conversations were able to assess that, while many people we spoke to had relatively high levels of wealth (had sold a business and were giving from capital, or were earning high incomes), there was a significant group of people on less high incomes (under £100,000) who were giving proportionally high amounts.

We’re grateful to everyone who helped us with this work and inspired by the many stories of generosity, expressed extremely humbly, which were shared with us. Our hope is that the insights we share here are a helpful reminder of the importance of giving as a spiritual discipline and that they contribute to our understanding of the relationships between philanthropists, charities and beneficiaries working together to bring about social change in some of the world’s hardest places.

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