Almost three-quarters of UK charities that have royal patrons had zero public engagements with them last year, according to research published by Giving Evidence.
Giving Evidence looked at what royal patronages of charities comprise, which charities get them, and whether they help the charities.
The research found that 26% of the royals’ public engagements during 2019 were with charities where they have patronages.
Giving Evidence suggests that the royals do far more public engagement with charities that they set up themselves than with pre-existing charities that they take on.
Charities that royals set up account for 2% of their charity patronages, but 36% of public engagements carried out.
The research did not find any effect on charities’ income from having royal patronages.
Royal family data on patronages ‘unclear, incomplete, inconsistent, and sometimes wrong’
Giving Evidence states that data published by the royal family about their patronages, charities and activities is “unclear, incomplete, inconsistent, and sometimes wrong”.
For example, Prince Andrew is still listed as patron of an NSPCC campaign which ended 11 years ago. For one of Prince Harry’s patronages, the link on the royal family’s website went to a porn site.
Data suggests the royals are patrons of 1,187 registered UK charities. Most, 1,067, have one royal patron, though some have multiple.
The charity patronages are unevenly spread. Prince Charles, Princess Anne and the Queen have 532 between them, whereas Prince Harry has eight and Prince William has 12.
Moreover, fewer than half of royal patronages are registered UK charities and include organisations like private clubs. For example, Prince Andrew had, as of 1 November 2019, patronages with 30 private golf clubs or golfing societies.
Charities with royal patrons were also disproportionately large, and disproportionately in London, the South East and South West of England.
Caroline Fiennes, director of Giving Evidence, said: “Giving Evidence’s work is about providing evidence to help donors and charities to make better decisions about what to do and how to do it. We have seen charities go to some lengths to secure and retain royal patrons, so it seems reasonable to ask whether (and when) royal patronages help them.”
She added: “Some charities cite benefits of patronages on other dimensions, such as staff morale, and we do believe them. The findings imply that charities may get less benefit from royal patrons – in terms of public engagements with them, or an effect on revenue – than they may hope.”