Do Royals help charities? We’re finding out

Apparently ~3000 organisations have Royal patrons. About 200 have this week lost their relationship with Prince Andrew. Securing and maintaining a relationship with a Royal is work, and is it worth it? It seems that nobody knows. Giving Evidence is going to investigate. {Update: the results of this analysis are here, published in summer 2020.}

This is a question about donor effectiveness: the patrons probably think that they are helping the charities, but donors are often rather less helpful than they think they are. It’s reasonable – and possible – to assess the effectiveness of donors, as we have said elsewhere. It is also a question about charity effectiveness: how should charities best allocate their scarce resources? We will specifically be looking at whether & how much & when Royals patrons – and with luck other celeb patrons – help charities.

I  had the idea to do this a few years ago, after I heard that when Kate Middleton visits a charity of which she’s patron, the charity has to pay for her security. It was the charity’s director’s spouse who told me that, and it turns out not to be true actually, but anyway, that made me wonder about the cost/benefit to charities of royal patrons, and whether /when / how much they do help. Reportedly some US charities reportedly pay their celebs. One charity told us this week that it fired its royal patron because they were more effort than they were worth.

I worked out a research method with an academic statistician, and a volunteer gathered some of the relevant data as a feasibility test. It seems feasible.

Obviously, the ideal way to see the effect of a Royal / celeb patron would be to take a load of charities, randomly divide them in half, have the patron take on one half (the numbers have to be big enough to be statistically significant), and then compare the performance of those ‘patron-ee’ charities with the performance of the non-patronee ones. Pretty obviously, we can’t do that. So we need to construct a difference comparison set. There are ways of doing that, which we’re currently assessing. It will likely be some form of regression discontinuity analysis (the discontinuity being when the patronage starts) with a synthetic comparator.

We have some funding and will analyse as many patrons (Royal and other) as we can within that funding. A bigger dataset means more reliable findings: if you’d like to donate to enlarge this project, please get in touch.

Giving Evidence will do this as proper research. i.e,. we will publish the method, data & analysis in full – as we did with our ground-breaking analysis of charities’ admin costs.

If you are a Royal or celebrity patron and would like to be involved, do get in touch. Equally, if you are a charity with a Royal or celebrity patron and would like to be involved, do get in touch.

Note that we will probably not be able to assess the effect of Prince Andrew’s departure for a while. That is because a primary outcome that we’ll assess is the charities’ revenue (this being the sole dataset that will certainly be available and comparable for all charities we analyse), and we’d need revenue data for at least one full year after the departure (and ideally longer) and obviously that won’t be available for a while. Similarly, we’re unlikely to be able to include any of Meghan’s patronages because they’re too new to have produced results yet.

Stay tuned.


Update, 16 January 2020

A first step has been to establish the list of UK charities (as opposed to other types of organisation) of which Royals are patrons: they also have patronages of military orgs, cities, non-charitable non-profits. That step has been amazingly difficult.

It was hard to get a list of the patronages at all: We asked Buckingham Palace for a list, but they said that they didn’t have it other than as on their website. So we had to scrape the list on their website. This is a messy process. Plus, the list on the various official Royal websites vary: their own ‘management information’ seems pretty poor. For example, the Royal Family’s website,, presents a drop-down list of Royals who have patronages, and the list of patronages held by each Royal. However, Giving Evidence has discovered that:

  • Prince Charles’ patronages as listed on differ from those listed on his own official website ( For example, his own website lists him as patron of the Sustainable Food Trust ( whereas that that is not on the list of his patronages on We found around* 20 such discrepancies of his charity patronages.
  • The same for the Duchess of Cornwall. Her website ( lists her as patron of Versus Arthritis (, whereas that that is not on the list of her patronages on (despite her having been patron since 2012). We found around* 5 such discrepancies of her charity patronages.
  • The same for Prince Andrew. He has a separate website unique to him: It lists him as patron of Enterprise Education Trust ( which is not on the list of his patronages as given on And lists him as patron of The Friends of the Imperial War Museum (, which is not on the list of his patronages on his website. We found over 35 such discrepancies of his charity patronages.
  • Oddly, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie are only half-listed on the Royal Family’s website as having patronages. They do have patronages, but they are not on the drop-down list of Royals who do so; and where their patronages are listed, they are not cited on as patrons. See example Screenshot 1 below from Another example is Teenage Cancer Trust, which is listed on as having a Royal patron, but no Royal patron is specified in the entry (see Screenshot 2 below).

We asked Buckingham Palace for a list of Royal patronages is some usable format, such as a spreadsheet, but they said that they do not have one.

It is extremely difficult to identify the patronages which are of UK registered charities. The Royals also have patronages of other types of entity, e.g., cities, parts of the military, non-charitable non-profits (e.g., the Duchess of Cambridge is patron of the V&A Museum, which is not a registered charity but a non-departmental public body). We are still unable to isolate the UK registered charity patronages despite having now spent at least four-person-weeks on it. Hence the numbers often quoted in the press about the number of charities which various Royals are patrons are almost certainly wrong. For example, the Prince of Wales’ website lists him as patron of ‘The Reserve Forces Ulysses Trust’ whereas the site lists him as patron of ‘Ulysses Trust’: we think that these are the same thing, but cannot know, and the Royals between them have hundreds of such patronages which would need cross-checking.

*The above is why these numbers are somewhat imprecise.

This has been covered in the press, e.g., here.

We will publish more as we proceed.

This entry was posted in Donor behaviour & giving stats, Effective giving, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Do Royals help charities? We’re finding out

  1. julianbeynon says:

    I note that this was a year ago but I seriously doubt your methodology. As someone who has one of the most ‘in demand’ Royals on the planet supporting my charity, whilst also having seen how the hardest working Royal makes a difference I find your premise flawed.

    By all means challenge me.

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