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More philanthropists required

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 21 Apr 2022

With charitable donations in decline in the UK, a retired ICAEW member has made a generous gift to fund cancer research and urges others to follow his example.

A retired ICAEW member and his wife who recently donated £9m to a world-leading cancer research institute and charity is urging other members to follow suit, as research highlights a decline in philanthropy among ‘high earners’ and below average numbers of people donating, even as the economy reopens post lockdown. 

The donation to The Institute of Cancer Research, London, by David Hill and his wife Ruth, will fund a four-year programme of research led by more than 15 drug discovery and cancer biology researchers at a new Centre for Protein Degradation, based in the ICR’s state-of-the-art Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery. 

The £9m pledge will be invested in research in one of the most promising new areas of drug discovery – targeted protein degradation. Led by Professor Ian Collins, Head of Chemistry in the ICR’s Cancer Therapeutics Unit, scientists will work on different emerging technologies to wipe out cancer proteins that conventional targeted treatments have been unable to block.

A member institution of the University of London, the ICR is one of the world’s most influential cancer research organisations, the UK’s top-ranked academic institution for research quality and provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction. It has charitable status and relies on support from partner organisations, charities and the general public.

The Hills, a retired couple originally from Cumbria, have been making donations to UK medical charities since 2007 and supporting the ICR with smaller donations since the mid-2010s. They knew that they wanted to make a much larger gift, following the sale in December last year of the Grove Business Park in Oxfordshire. David Hill qualified with ICAEW in 1977 and after several years in practice and running a financial services business in Cumbria until 2002 when he developed a successful career in commercial property. Last year the couple sold the Grove Business Park in Oxfordshire.

“We decided that the right and proper thing to do was to donate a large chunk of the profits which we made from Grove Business Park to medical research,” Hill explains. “Rather than leaving it to medical research in our wills, we wanted medical research to benefit now.”

The research offers hope by targeting ‘undruggable’ cancer proteins that make some people’s cancer harder to treat. The ICR’s researchers also believe their findings could have medical benefits beyond cancer – for example, by tackling the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain that is common to several neurodegenerative diseases.

If the research succeeds in getting drugs to clinical trial, the plan is for the ICR to partner with global drug companies and any royalties earned will go to the ICR to fund future research. The ICR is the world’s most successful academic centre at discovering new cancer drugs. Since 2005, the ICR has discovered 20 drug candidates, 11 of which have progressed into clinical development.

Recent data released by the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, which represents six less survivable cancers – lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach – showed that, on average, only 16% of people with one of these cancers live for five years. For other common cancers, the average five-year survival rate is much higher at 69 per cent.

Hill added: “Medical research is long term and very expensive but the benefits to everyone’s health is incalculable. We would encourage anyone in a position to assist in similar lifesaving research projects not to hesitate and to speak to the ICR without delay to discuss how they too can help the ICR improve the life chances for everyone.

“I am reaching out to try to encourage other ICAEW members to engage by adding to the ICR’s fund for research either now, in the future or in their wills, because this programme will improve the lives of cancer sufferers and hopefully stop certain undruggable cancers,” Hill says.

Lara Jukes, Director of Development at the ICR, said that although income from philanthropy was holding up well since the pandemic, cuts to research grant funding, in some cases by as much as 30%, had made things really difficult. She called on donors to dig deep and be generous.

“This transformational gift is magnificently generous, and we are so grateful to David and Ruth for their support. Philanthropic donations like this are hugely important for our research. We couldn’t make our life-changing discoveries without the support of our donors – their donations are hugely powerful in unleashing the potential of our science and improving cancer patients’ lives,” Jukes says.

A report published by Pro Bono Economics in December last year warned that the decline in philanthropy among those with the greatest resources was of particular concern against a backdrop of a shrinking population of people giving to charity. 

Even after adjusting for inflation, incomes of the top 1% of earners in the UK have grown significantly since 2011. The typical income of someone in the top 1% of earners grew by 10% in real terms between 2011/12 and 2018/19, from £247,000 to £271,000. Yet over the same period, the typical donation to charity made by top earners fell by over 20% and now sits at just £48 a month.

At the same time, the process by which the tax system encourages philanthropy is not working hard enough, Pro Bono Economics says. Gift Aid is claimed by charities on just over half of donations in the UK, but a further 25% of the total value of donations may be eligible for it.

The falling participation in philanthropy, the decline in average giving by the wealthiest, and persistently unclaimed Gift Aid have combined to create a three-fold ‘giving gap’: one which could be worth close to £3bn a year for the country’s charities, it says.

Pro Bono Economics said there was a role for philanthropists in how they share and help proliferate philanthropy among their peers, and for wealth managers and advisers in how they understand and advocate for tax-efficient giving. 

Meanwhile, the Charities Aid Foundation’s UK Giving Report 2021 found that despite an increase in charitable donations by the British people to £11.3bn in 2020 up from £10.6bn in 2019, donation levels continue to be lower than average in 2021.

“For UK taxpayers philanthropy offers potential Income or corporation tax relief on donations and IHT relief, but we haven’t done this to gain tax relief. We’ve done it because it’s the right thing to do. Anyone who feels moved to do something to help the ICR should engage directly,” Hill says. 

Kristina Kopic, ICAEW’s Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector, says: “As charities rally to support those most affected by the cost-of-living crisis and tackle other inequalities, many rely on donations from the public to fund their vital work. Not everyone can afford to make such a transformative gift to charity, but I’d encourage all ICAEW members to consider supporting the causes that they believe in with regular donations and by sharing their world-leading knowledge, skills and ethics as charity volunteers.”

ICAEW Volunteers connects charities with finance professionals looking for volunteer roles. The service is free for all not-for-profit organisations and volunteers to use. Post or find a volunteer role today.

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