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We know that sport can transform lives, but a recent awards ceremony honouring global philanthropists is a reminder that philanthropy, in all its forms, can also transform lives and is needed more than ever.

Whether through participation in sport as part of a healthier lifestyle or harnessing the power of sport to tackle social issues there is a widespread belief that sport can transform lives.

As with last year's Olympic Games, legacy is one of the most important features of the Commonwealth Games next year. Success in Glasgow 2014 will be measured not only in medals but also in jobs, the development of businesses and the number of people using sporting facilities.

Sports clubs and charities still face a difficult time against the current economic backdrop and ongoing austerity measures and the funding challenge, whether from government grants, public and corporate donations or charitable foundations remains. So there is much for philanthropy still to do.

Central to the beliefs of Andrew Carnegie, Dunfermline-born Scottish/American philanthropist, was that it was possible to transform lives through philanthropy.

One definition of philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. Acts of philanthropy can also include donating money to charity at any level, volunteering or raising money for a particular cause.

Scottish entrepreneur, Sir Tom Hunter, and other leading philanthropists were honoured recently at the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy ceremony held in the Scottish Parliament. The most celebrated award in global philanthropy, designed to honour its name-sake Andrew Carnegie and often referred to as the 'Nobel Prize of Philanthropy', recognises those who use their private wealth and business acumen for public good.

The ceremony was one of a number of events marking the centenary of the establishment of the Carnegie UK Trust, one of twenty or so worldwide charitable foundations that he formed. Carnegie himself would have been particularly interested in one of a series of seminars that considered"Is philanthropy still needed?" A man of many memorable quotes, on this issue he could not have been more clear:"A man who dies rich, dies in disgrace."

In the UK, there are signs that philanthropic giving is evolving. While the general public remains generous, philanthropy is increasingly dependent on the generosity of the wealthiest who are taking a growing public role in giving to charity.

The most recent Giving List published by the Sunday Times alongside its Rich List showed an increase of over 20% in giving by the wealthiest in our society. Perhaps the spirit of the great philanthropists who built their fortunes in the late 19th century – typified by Carnegie, Quaker Joseph Rowntree and American oil tycoon John D Rockefeller – is still alive and being championed by the likes of Sir Tom Hunter.

The 2012 UK Giving report showed a 20% fall in donations to charity among the general public. It also highlighted a fall in the number of people donating as well as the average gift reducing, suggesting that the economic downturn is taking its toll. However, the spirit of charity amongst the wider public does seem alive and well as seen from the £75m raised by Comic Relief earlier this year, not to mention over £160m by Help for Heroes since it was formed around six years ago. The UK is one of the more generous nations in Europe, with 28% of higher rate taxpayers making charitable donations, although this falls seriously below the 98% rate in the US.

The generosity and commitment of Sir Tom Hunter and other significant philanthropists can change lives, but the collective efforts of individuals, whether through charitable donations or volunteering their time and expertise should not be forgotten. Philanthropy in all its forms is most definitely still needed.

Turcan Connell's breadth of expertise in dealing with individuals, charities and philanthropy is unrivalled and gives us a comprehensive perspective on their needs. The wealth of experience within Turcan Connell Group gives us an understanding of the advice and guidance which individuals and charities require. Through all of this, we aim to provide sound, specific and pragmatic advice to help achieve your objectives.

This article appeared in the SCRUM Magazine Issue 56

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