Philanthropist of the Month: David Hockney

In a reminder of what is at stake in the controversy about tax relief for donors, The Sunday Times Rich List showed that donations from the UK’s top 100 philanthropists has risen by 13% in the last year, to £1.89 billion. And, in a change from previous years, the Giving List of wealthy donors is led by an artist. David Hockney donated artwork worth £76.5m and £760,000 in cash to the David Hockney Foundation – dwarfing his remaining wealth of £34m.

David Hockney is a perfect example of the kind of giver outlined by a Charities Aid Foundation survey of philanthropists carried out for the Sunday Times. It found that 98% said personal values were important to their philanthropy and two-thirds are motivated by their enjoyment of giving. For Hockney, as one of the most noted artists of his generation, what better way to promote art than to use his own works as donations? His Foundation, established in 2008, aims to further the education of the public in the appreciation of art.

It is refreshing to see one philanthropist use valuable art for the greater good at a time when the Government has very publicly questioned donors’ motives.  Undoubtedly the context for philanthropy has become more hostile, just as charities need private donations more than ever.

Hockney is to be praised for using the form of wealth he has – his creative talent – to support public access to art. The main question for charities is raised by the survey finding that 45% of philanthropists cannot access the advice they need to make informed decisions. Cause4 set up the independent  Philanthropy Foundation last year to make giving easier and to address this gap. There is a very real difference between the technical set up of a foundation or charitable giving in financial and legal terms which is  a market served well by personal advisors – and developing the context and content for charitable giving where services are often lacking.

How can we make every donor as wedded to their cause as David Hockney? And what can we do to celebrate major donors in the current financial and legislative climate? Let us know your thoughts.


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