Charities should be thankful for royal philanthropy


Kim Roberts


The Royal Family are an incredible force for good when it comes to supporting charities. Royal patronage adds status to an organisation as well as giving them some much needed publicity, but perhaps most importantly it can have a positive effect on donations.

Royal Household statistics confirm that between them the royal family hold patronages of over 3,000 charities. The Queen alone holds 600, and the Duke of Edinburgh has had more than 700 – including of course his role as patron of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).  CAF research shows that these royal patronages can be vital for charities, with one in eight people saying that the patronage of a member of the royal family makes us more inclined to give money to a charity.

If you add that to our research from 2012 which showed that charities of which the Queen is patron raised more than £1.4 billion every year, it becomes clear that having a royal name atop one’s charity is a big deal. The royals are afforded both a platform and an audience simply because of who they are. We cannot underestimate the impact that has when they use that platform to promote charities. All of a sudden a charity can find itself on the BBC, the Daily Mail, plastered across Twitter – attention that it may not have been able to garner by itself.

Supporting charities is not only an important part of any royal’s work, it is also an expectation. One third of the UK population think that think that supporting charities is the most important part of the royal family’s role. Just as the Government recognises the central place of civil society, so also the royal family’s support for, and leadership of, civil society groups reinforces that pivotal role.

The Prince of Wales, who founded the Prince’s Trust more than 40 years ago, has dedicated much of his life to supporting charitable organisations. The Trust alone has helped over 825,000 young people across the UK since its inception, and quite easily raises upwards of £60 million every year to keep it running.  What is most interesting about the Prince’s Trust is not just how successful it has been, but how it may help Prince Charles shape himself as King.

The Queen holds a large number of patronages for charities relating to the armed forces, civic life and the community. For her, charity support is purely an extension of her role as the head of state – a focus for national identity, unity and pride. Like the Queen, Charles sees support for charities as intrinsic to his duty as a royal, and has made a concerted effort to support and promote the charities which he has a personal passion for. His interests in the arts, global sustainability and rural affairs are reflected in the charities he has chosen to support. His patronages are not just an extension of his role as Prince; rather they are an extension of him as a person.

The same pattern can be found amongst the younger royals, all of whom are choosing to support charities that they have a genuine interest in. Prince Harry, a former soldier himself, has been the driving force behind the Invictus Games for injured service men and women. Prince William, like his father has focussed on environmental charities, using his role to draw attention to illegal poaching and climate change. And now we have the increasingly popular Duchess of Cambridge and Duchess of Sussex, both of whom have expressed a keen desire to use their role in public life to promote charities and causes close to their hearts. The Duchess of Cambridge has chosen to support charities which are centred around providing children with the best possible start in life, whilst the Duchess of Sussex announced her intention to continue her work around human rights and women’s advocacy, most recently launching a cookbook with women whose community was affected by the Grenfell fire.

The ability for the younger royals to project their personality to a public audience through their charitable work is vitally important, and it will likely tell us more about them as people than we could otherwise hope to know.

Whether you like the royals or not, as a sector we should be incredibly proud and grateful that the most powerful family in the country recognise the important work that we do, and they want to promote it.

Kim Roberts is Policy Manager at the Charities Aid Foundation

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