The point of honours for philanthropists is not glory-seeking but example-setting: the more people we see giving, the more likely we are to give
One of the complaints of the philanthropic sector (though not often of philanthropists themselves) is that charity is rarely publicly rewarded. The point is not glory-seeking but example-setting: the more people we see giving, the more likely we are to give, they reason. That is why it was so pleasing to see seven people receive awards in the Queen's Birthday Honours this weekend explicitly for their philanthropy.
The awards, moreover, were at all levels, showing that it is not just the biggest spenders who get a gong. They ranged (in archaic order of rank) from a knighthood for Michael Hintze (pictured below), hedgie and patron of the V&A, to an MBE for Dennis Arbon, for charity that includes donating a stretch of beach in Cornwall to a local theatre, to be sold off when needed.
The other recipients were:
Phyllis Somers (DBE), a Jersey-based medical philanthropist (Birkbeck's Biomedical Chemistry Laboratory) who is the widow of Nat Somers, former owners of Southampton Airport; she has donated over £46 million;
Janet Wolfson de Botton (DBE), who has used the endowment of the Wolfson Foundation, established in 1955 with shares from the Great Universal Stores group, to support neurological research and cultural philanthropy; de Botton also personally gave sixty artworks to the Tate in 1996;
Robert Fleming (CBE), for 'substantial donations through his family charitable trust';
Dr Leonard Polonsky (CBE), a British citizen living in America who founded the Liberty Life Assurance Company (later Hansard Global); the Polonsky Foundation supports higher education around the world, with a focus on the resolution of human conflict;
and Steven Edwards (OBE), a social entrepreneur from Essex, recognised for philanthropy and his contribution to higher education.
Although only seven are recognised for philanthropy out of 1,180 recipients in total, any increased visibility benefits good causes.
Perhaps, however, it is time for a set of honours specifically to recognise philanthropists, showing the high value we place on their activities and setting them apart?