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England’s mayors 'can create a new golden age of civic philanthropy'

17 July 2017

Directly-elected mayors should kick-start a new culture of civic philanthropy in their local areas, one of Britain’s largest charities is urging.

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) is writing to England’s 23 directly elected mayors with a call for them to play a leading role in attracting donations from philanthropists and businesses. In a new discussion paper published today it has outlined a number of practical steps they can take.

It argues that philanthropy has played a huge role in the development of many of our great towns and cities, but warns that the tradition of civic philanthropy has been in a long cycle of decline.

CAF helps thousands of people – from regular givers to wealthy philanthropists – give to causes they care about, and last year distributed £462 million to charities.

It today launches its Giving for the City project with a call for mayors to nurture a new golden age of civic philanthropy. It sets out how they can take inspiration from some of the great philanthropist-mayors of the past like Andrew Barclay-Walker in Liverpool and Joseph Strutt in Derby, or by following the international example of Michael Bloomberg who harnessed philanthropy for the benefit of the City of New York.

Every directly-elected mayor has been challenged to follow five recommendations:

  • Establish a Mayor’s Fund to attract donations for addressing local challenges and issues. While the Mayor’s Fund model has started to take off – notably in London and Greater Manchester – the UK still lags a long way behind the US.
  • Publish a philanthropy strategy, detailing the approach of the mayoral office to civic philanthropy.
  • Appoint a philanthropy liaison to develop relationships with potential philanthropists and local charities.
  • Develop a clear narrative and vision about the role of philanthropy in their town, city or region.
  • Use the profile and status of the mayoralty to bring together philanthropists, charities, foundations, companies and public sector bodies to encourage partnerships and identify shared goals.

Rhodri Davies, Programme Leader of the Giving Thought policy programme at CAF, said:

“Philanthropy played a huge role in the development of many of the UK’s great towns and cities. There has also long been a close relationship between the role of local mayors and that of civic philanthropists.

“The introduction of directly-elected mayors in the UK thus offers a real opportunity to breathe new life into civic philanthropy, which has long been in decline.

“By championing local giving and putting in place the right structures and strategies, mayors have a golden opportunity to embrace the generosity of people and business to help address local issues."

Today’s discussion paper Chain Links: how mayors can build a culture of philanthropy will be followed up with a more detailed report later this year with wide-ranging recommendations for building a culture of civic philanthropy.

CAF will also be discussing the proposals with local and national politicians at party conferences this autumn.

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