Just read a nice story on the BBC News website about Northumberland millionaire Brian Burnie’s decision to sell his country pile and give all the proceeds to charity. Describing his decision to divest himself of his biggest asset whilst he and his wife still need a place to live, he says: “We won’t exactly be selling the Big Issue but we will be downsizing.”
Burnie clearly understands the attractions of giving it all away whilst you’re alive rather than waiting ’til you’re dead and doing it in a legacy. He’s right of course, it’s more meaningful to donate whilst you’re still around and it’s more fun – charities can’t be nice to dead donors or show them what difference their support made. (Though as the Chair of the first organisation that I fundraised for pointed out, you rarely get dissatisfied legacy donors!). But perhaps most crucially – and as others have pointed out – a charitable gift made in a legacy is really a gift from the descendants not the donor, who has no further use for that money.
‘Giving whilst living’ is a phrase you hear quite often in the US, but only a few UK donors have spoken openly about doing this, foremost amongst them being David Sainsbury, whose efforts to spend out the entire balance of his Gatsby Foundation have seen him become the UK’s first billanthropist
So well done to Brian Burnie, here’s hoping he inspires other UK donors to follow suit.