Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Reticence of wealthy charity donors needs changed to inspire their peers

Ellen Remmer, of The Philanthropic Initiative USA (second left), guest speaker at the Corporates and Philanthropy Event co-hosted by Giving Northern Ireland and the Institute of Directors, with (from left) Ian Huddleston, Sandara Kelso-Robb and Gary Mills from Giving Northern Ireland
Ellen Remmer, of The Philanthropic Initiative USA (second left), guest speaker at the Corporates and Philanthropy Event co-hosted by Giving Northern Ireland and the Institute of Directors, with (from left) Ian Huddleston, Sandara Kelso-Robb and Gary Mills from Giving Northern Ireland

Charitable giving by wealthy people in Northern Ireland may be going unnoticed because of the reticence of people involved in philanthropic causes.

Giving Northern Ireland said it was hard to quantify how many high-net worth individuals were digging deep for good causes because many donors did not want to go public.

Sir Allen McClay, the founder of pharmaceutical giant Almac, was perhaps Northern Ireland's best-known philanthropist, and gave away millions of his wealth to university research and other causes.

Philanthropist Ellen Remmer of The Philanthropic Initiative in the US, who addressed an event held by Giving Northern Ireland this month, said philanthropy in Northern Ireland was being held back because of the unwillingness of donors to come forward and persuade their peers to give.

"One of the biggest challenges will be the very private culture you have in Northern Ireland. There do not seem to be a lot of donors who are willing to stand up, challenge and inspire their peers to give," she told the Institute of Directors.

Gary Mills, director of Giving Northern Ireland, said: "People in Northern Ireland are very reluctant to talk about their generosity but we need to persuade them this is the only way to bring philanthropy into the public consciousness."

Giving Northern Ireland said it did interview 22 givers about their donations, on condition of anonymity.

The majority had given sums of between £10,000 and £20,000, mostly by gift-aided cash donations. The rest were through family trusts or charitable trusts.

Two out of three also gave support to charities by joining boards and committees. The most common causes were children and young people, education and schools and health, including medical research and the hospice movement.

But the economy had hampered the giving habits of one in four, and others also identified a lack of culture of giving in Northern Ireland.

Around 25 people attended an event to publicise the work of Giving NI, including Pinsent Masons partner Ian Huddleston, who spoke about his work helping set up the Sir Allen McClay Foundation.

He is still a director of the foundation, which works in Africa and India in palliative care for cancer patients.

While there was no research into how much companies were giving, the organisation said it did hope to get a better view of how much was being given and to what causes.

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