Culture Secretary's speech at Onward's philanthropy report launch

Speech delivered by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer at the launch of a report by think tank Onward into philanthropy titled 'Giving Back Better'

The Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP

Good morning everyone.

It’s brilliant to be here and a big thanks to Adam Hawksbee and Seb Payne and the whole team at Onward for putting on today’s event.

I wanted to start with some thoughts about lions,

And I begin with a story of two young men in a desert.

They see a lion facing them, one of them bends down and puts on his trainers.

The other says. Why are you doing that? You’ll never run faster than the lion.

No, replies the first, but I will run faster than you.

It’s a story about how sometimes we think about ourselves, and not others.

In fact, whilst one man will definitely not survive against a lion. It is possible that working with others…with 2, 10 or 20, survival is possible.

It is possible that if we think not only of ourselves, but how we can work with others, we can achieve so much more.

And I tell that story as today we are talking about philanthropy.

The UK has always thrived as a nation which believes in community.

Community has been the bedrock of life in this country - serving as a network that draws us all together, supporting those who have the least.

In the UK we have a strong tradition of wealthy industrialists and business leaders giving back to the communities of which they were part.

The Cadburys in Birmingham; the Lever brothers on the Wirral; and mill owners in Manchester and Bradford like Sir Titus Salt.

They understood that they had a duty to their local communities, one that went beyond simply their employment relationship - but was linked to the wellbeing of the society they were part of - building strong philanthropic ties with their local communities.

Of course, the world has moved on today.

After World War II, the creation and extension of the welfare state meant that the Government came to assume a critical role in delivering what had previously been left to others the provision of health services, financial support in unemployment and illness.

And of course it’s the responsibility of any Government to protect and support those in our society, particularly the most disadvantaged.

But while the Government is, and must continue to be, integral to helping people, it cannot and should not always be the whole answer.

Government should be part of a partnership.

And it has a role in ensuring that the partnership is an effective one.

Govt should ensure that the frameworks are there to enable others to give. And to facilitate that giving.

And it is beyond doubt that British society is playing an important role and is already very generous.

The recent annual report from the charities aid foundation found donations to charity in 2022 reached a record £12.7 billion up from £10.7 billion the year before.

But it is interesting to read in your report the challenges that exist in this area. that some of the most fortunate have historically given more philanthropy is not always reaching the places where it’s needed most.

And the benefits of philanthropy are not being felt evenly across the country.

And so, we need to consider how we in Government can do more to work with those who can and want to do more.

This is a core priority for me. It’s something that I have been looking at since I was appointed as Secretary of State for DCMS and I welcome Onward’s significant contribution to this important debate.

And I want to focus our efforts on three main areas: Enabling, Encouraging and recognising philanthropy.

We need to maximise the untapped potential that exists right across society.
So I’m looking closely and building on work already in train across Government - on many of the things you identified in your report: 

Streamlining Gift Aid; 

Working with the FCA and HMT to explore the possibility of greater philanthropy training;

And promoting and supporting stronger regional and partnership giving

Because, if we can get that formula right, we can encourage even more people and organisations to give.

But I also think it is right to recognise that as a nation we are sometimes squeamish about talking about earning and giving

Sometimes reluctant to recognise wealth as a positive force in society. 

And often, worse, we denigrate those who succeed and those who give.

A big part of the equation is unashamedly championing philanthropy. 

And, for that, I believe we need a collective attitude-shift.

A hopeful message.

Philanthropists and would-be philanthropists need to know that we not only recognise their giving…we celebrate it.

Onward’s illuminating report really highlights the fact that we have a tendency to view philanthropy - particularly by businesses - with mild suspicion.

What’s the agenda? What do they stand to gain?

This scrutiny almost automatically assumes that those who give are motivated by cynicism or an act of PR to improve their public image.

A desire for transparency is a healthy one, but it is clouding our judgement and discouraging would-be philanthropists.

We need these individuals, businesses and groups and it’s complacent to think otherwise.

In the United States they celebrate their great philanthropists - from Bill and Melinda Gates and Mike Bloomberg, to Mackenzie Scott.

More can undoubtedly be done to create a positive giving environment at home.

One that recognises, as the Chair of the Charity Commission - Orlando Fraser, has said: ‘Giving is good for those who give, it is good for those who benefit, and it is good for society as a whole.’

It has to start with applauding - not seeking to find fault with - those organisations who give generously, whether that’s through sponsorships or donations.

Just look at the past few years.

The Science Museum forced to abandon its backing by Shell.

The National Portrait Gallery received a great deal of unwarranted criticism for its sponsorship by a law firm.

For its recent commitment of £50 million to the BM, the biggest donation of its kind, I think we should say to BP, thank you.

The ultimate beneficiaries of these sponsorships are all of us.

While Government funding sustains free entry and access to our world-leading museums and art galleries, exceptional acts of generosity such as donations and sponsorships are key to widening access to great artworks and cultural treasures.

They help to drive tourism into the UK and help us retain our soft power abroad.

And when we work together, national government, local collaborations, supporting local areas. That works even better.

We should applaud our new philanthropic networks, like Made-in-Stoke which is reviving a trend of local philanthropy that dates back to the Victorian era.

The 18th century ceramics tycoon and one of Stoke’s best-known entrepreneurs, Josiah Wedgwood famously built a model village for workers in the Staffordshire potteries which set an example for decades to come.

Today, the Made-in-Stoke network is bringing together local universities, football clubs, charities, philanthropists and the city council to reinvest in the place that made them successful.

Matthew Bowcock, who is one of the network’s champions, neatly summed up their aim as ‘harnessing the fierce pride and loyalty felt by people born, raised or somehow connected to this city.’

To date, Made in Stoke has led to a £10,000 investment into sports activities for children, and £50,000 going to dance and ballet classes for children.

Made-in-Stoke is a real partnership. One that benefits from both government money, local money and philanthropic funding.

And that partnership brings together Stoke donors who are willing and able to work hand in hand with the city council and community organisations to deliver for people in the city.

It is a hugely successful partnership of a kind we should replicate across the country.

Jason Stockwood - who is on the panel today - is a great example of the kind of philanthropy that we want to champion.

I know Jason has talked about his motivation as Chair of the Grimsby Horizon Youth Zone, and how he felt he had an opportunity - as an entrepreneur - to make a difference.

And he’s doing that through the Youth Zone, through Grimsby Town FC, and OnSide’s Grimsby centre.

And Jason is not alone.

Sir Roger De Haan, whose wealth comes from the Saga holiday company, has changed the face of the port of Folkestone after buying its harbour for £11 million in 2004 and rejuvenating it.

His commitment to Folkestone has helped to turn around the fortunes of the town and it has transformed the high street, which is now called the Creative Quarter full of bars and art galleries enjoyed by locals.

Jonathan Ruffer, the former investment banker, has donated around £120 million to his local hometown of Bishop Auckland to ensure it retains its amazing heritage from the Auckland Tower and Auckland Castle to the Spanish Gallery.

And Jonathan’s focus has gone beyond preserving what was already there, thanks to his backing the Palace now has a museum on the history of Christianity and faith in Britain.

Or take Andrew Law, the hedge fund chief executive, who has quietly backed causes from the Lowry theatre complex in Salford to Maggie’s cancer centres and Robert Peston’s Speakers for Schools.

Two years ago, Andrew gave £6 million to the University of Sheffield, where he was educated, to encourage applications from poorer teenagers and to fund research into gene therapy the biggest single donation in the university’s 116-year history.

There are positive examples like this up and down the country.

They are evidence, if ever it were needed, of the huge difference that philanthropy makes.

And they’re a major reason why my outlook is an overwhelmingly positive one.

And the enduring strength of philanthropy in the UK reflects our recognition of our common humanity.

That’s why a third of us gave money to Ukraine when the war broke out in 2021.

That’s why giving, nationally, increased by £2bn last year.

But we can go further. We can find ways to give more.

Creating a policy environment that makes giving easier and more rewarding.

Growing the core of wealthy individuals reinvesting in the local areas that helped make them.

Recognising the individuals and groups who give back.

When lions come our way, let’s fight them together, in our communities. not alone.

So let’s be unashamedly positive about philanthropy in this country.

And let’s work together to make it happen.

Thank you.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport
The Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP