Brexit and Immigration’s Role in Philanthropy

Brexit and Immigration’s Role in Philanthropy

Michael Adamson Profile

Michael Adamson was Arts Fundraising Fellow for Studio Wayne McGregor until September 2016, and has remained with the organisation as Development Officer.

Britain’s decision on its future within the European Union (EU) will undoubtedly impact the non-profit sector. The Britain Stronger in Europe campaign has already released data that 249 charities received £217m in funding from the EU in 2014. If Britain leaves the EU we must consider all the possible funding implications including Britain’s eligibility to receive funding from Creative Europe, the European Commission’s framework programme for support to the cultural and audiovisual sectors.

Being part of the European Union has had a positive impact on the creative industries, enabling the cross-pollination of creativity and permitting artists to be mobile, working and sharing their art across the continent. Another benefit of being a member of the European Union was Liverpool’s transformation into the European Capital of Culture in 2008, enabling 9.7 million additional visits to the city that generated an economic impact of £753.8 million. According to evaluation by the University of Liverpool “the Liverpool European Capital of Culture had improved the profile of the city, particularly externally; that it had improved the ‘local morale’ of the sector and increased its credibility within the city region; and many anticipate long-term, positive impacts for their businesses.”


One aspect concerning Britain’s future involvement with the EU is the conversation surrounding immigration and the provision of welfare to EU migrants. This, along with the ongoing refugee crisis, has led me to think about a possible connection between immigration and philanthropy - an idea that I would like to introduce in this blog.

First of all, it should be recognised that philanthropy is a term that is not just limited to the wealthy; meaningful donations can also be seen from individuals across all economic backgrounds. Secondly, it is important to understand the motivations behind why people give. In the CAF Why We Give 2014 report, it lists that one of the main reasons behind individuals donating to charity is the sense of duty to give back to society and tackle inequality.

Quite often in the media, immigration is branded as a problem and this along with negative views surrounding ‘benefit tourism’ continue to encourage the public to view immigration as having a harmful impact on Britain. However, it is worth recognising how migration and the provision of welfare can in fact enable positive change.

La Machine’s giant mechanical spider La Princesse was the centrepiece of the city’s European Capital of Culture celebrations. Produced by Artichoke.

I want to focus on one aspect to support this - philanthropy. In a Radio 4 interview Dame Vivien Duffield was asked the question as to whether it is merely a coincidence that many prominent arts philanthropists are Jewish, to which Duffield replies that it is no coincidence. She explains that many immigrated to England and were grateful for what the country did for them. Their success led to their gratitude and these individuals recognised their roles as philanthropists. Duffield herself is the daughter of Sir Charles Clore, the son of a Lithuanian Jewish émigré who become one of Britain’s most successful businessmen. She inherited her father’s wealth along with the values to give to charitable causes.

Another example is Paul Hamlyn who immigrated to London from Germany in 1933, and it was in London that Hamlyn was given the opportunity to build a career. Hamlyn cared for the country that had given him the opportunity to build a life and once he had achieved success he was able to give back, recognising need for change whilst supporting his social views to facilitate positive transformations. Hamlyn set up the Paul Hamlyn Foundation in 1987 before his death in 2001. Today the Foundation aims to distribute grants totalling approximately £25 million per year. The Foundation’s intention is to make a difference to people’s lives, focussing particularly on funding arts and culture alongside investment into migration and integration, supporting young people who migrate and strengthen integration so that communities can live well together. Here we have a very clear and positive connection between immigration and philanthropy.


In the Radio 4 interview, Duffield alluded to the journey which philanthropy in Britain has taken, “I used to describe philanthropy and charitable giving as the icing of the cake, and then as the years went by it sort of became the filling in the middle, and now it has become the cake”. I do however slightly disagree with Duffield here. Philanthropy can never be the whole cake although there is no doubt that it is important. Acknowledging this need for philanthropy, I suggest we focus more towards the possible role that immigration could have in its future.

So let’s look optimistically at welcoming individuals to Britain and understand that providing welfare can become the engine to achieving success. If we realise that creating opportunity could in fact enable success and as consequence stimulate those that are supported to ‘give back’ to the communities in which they end up residing, then we may create the next generation of Hamlyn, Clore and Duffield’s and we could empower the next generation of philanthropy across all backgrounds, all whilst revealing the power and value of giving.

What do you think? Can remaining in the EU and supporting immigration help to stimulate philanthropy?