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Million Pound Donors Report | Methodology



This report identifies and analyses all known charitable donations worth £1m or more that were made either by UK donors or to UK-based charities between 1 April 2006 and 31 December 2016.

2017 marks the 10th year of the Coutts Million Pound Donors Report, providing a rich insight into a decade of major philanthropy in the UK.

Almost all the data discussed in this report was gathered from publicly available documents such as media coverage and charity annual reports and accounts. Some additional data was provided by donors, as well as by charities which received this level of donation – with the consent of their donors.

To enable accurate analysis of the aggregated data we have now reviewed and cleaned the complete dataset by, for example, removing any duplicates, re-categorising some donations to different sub-sectors and placing donations that only came to light in later years into their proper year. As a result, the figures presented here will not necessarily match those published in the original reports.


What is included?

We include donations made by individuals, foundations and corporations. We include corporate foundations under the larger ‘corporations’ category. Foundations may include both private foundations (where the founder or a family member is still present to direct grant decisions), and professional foundations (where the founder is no longer present to direct such decisions), as well as charitable trusts.

We include million pound donations to charitable foundations and trusts because they are irrevocably committed to spending such donations for the public good. However, we recognise that including such amounts risks occasional ‘double counting’ when the original sum put into the foundation is added to the value of grants distributed over time from that same pot.

Although social investing and impact investing are related to the concepts of philanthropy, they are not considered donations and are therefore not included in our data.


Categorising donations

The charitable sub-sectors are based on the US National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities – Core Codes (NTEE-CC) and in line with the classifications used in the Million Dollar List compiled by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Though some definitions travel better than others from country to country, we decided to retain this typology to enable cross-national analysis. Further information is online here.

Arts, Culture and Humanities
(e.g. museums, theatres, public broadcasting)

Educational institutions
(e.g. schools, libraries, scholarship funds)
Includes all organisations whose primary function is to educate, except those that focus on post‐secondary education.

(e.g. conservation funds, animal shelters, climate protection, zoos)
Includes any organisations focused on environmental issues, sustainability, and animal rights and protection.

(e.g. family foundations, corporate foundations, donor‐advised funds)
Includes private and family foundations, as well as those associated with corporations and community foundations.

(e.g. municipalities, government agencies)

(e.g. independent hospitals, nursing homes, medical research centres)

Higher education
(e.g. universities, university hospitals, university research centres)
Includes all colleges and universities, as well as their associated non-profit organisations, such as medical and research facilities.

Human services
(e.g. poverty prevention, crime, food aid, child services)
Services that provide direct assistance and intervention to people such as youth development, domestic disaster relief, public safety and crime, employment, and housing organisations. Recreation and sports organisations also fall under this heading, unless country context implies otherwise.

Funding for international aid and development, regardless of the location of the recipient charity.

(This is in line with the classification used in the Million Pound Donors Report since 2008, but different to the definition of ‘international’ used to categorise donations in other regions covered in the Million Dollar Donors Reports).

(e.g. all organisations headquartered outside of the country in question). For example, a gift given from a UK donor to Harvard University in the US. 

Public/societal benefit
(e.g. community foundations, independent social/scientific research). Includes civil rights, social science research, science and technology.

Religious organisations
(e.g. churches, synagogues, mosques, religious organisations)

These terms are used when the organisation’s mission or purpose is not known, when it falls outside the definition of any other sub-sector, or when one gift is made to multiple recipients with different sub-sectors.

Major grants to UK-based organisations

The world’s two largest grant-making institutions – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Wellcome Trust - both make grants to UK-based organisations . Due to their unusual size they require special treatment as follows:

Multiple grants from the Wellcome Trust to the same recipient are treated as one combined grant. This particularly affects funding granted to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a known problematic anomaly in studies of philanthropy due to its unusual size. As it is a US-based foundation, it was typically included in the US Million Dollar Donors Report but excluded from the UK data since 2014 to avoid double counting across the global Coutts reports. Within-country double counting occasionally occurs, due to the inclusion of money put into foundations and then later paid out in grants worth £1m or more. These generally have minimal impact on the headline and overall statistics. However, the inclusion of the Gates Foundation in the UK data would have heavily skewed the findings. For 2016, we have therefore continued to exclude the Gates Foundation from the UK report to enable more accurate year-on-year comparisons of the UK data.


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