Leeds-born academic follows in father's footsteps with New Year's OBE honour for philanthropy research

A Leeds-born academic has followed in her father's footsteps to receive a New Year's OBE honour for her work in philanthropy research.

By Daniel Sheridan
Monday, 3rd January 2022, 4:45 pm

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Dr Beth Breeze, 50, co-founded the Centre on Philanthropy at the University of Kent which she has now led for ten years.

Alongside colleagues, Beth conducts research and offers evidence-based education and training for people who work, or want to work, in charities.

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Beth Breeze

Beth created the UK’s first Masters degree in Philanthropic Studies, taught by distance learning to fit around jobs and family life.

She has now been awarded an OBE for services to Philanthropic Research and Fundraising.

Beth has become the second person in her family to be honoured after her father John Egan - former head gardener at Woodhouse Moor park - was given a 2009 honours list MBE for services to the community.

Speaking to the YEP, Beth said: "It is important to tackle misconceptions about why people give because charities cannot run on goodwill alone, they need funding to be able to do their work.

Beth Breeze

"I am so grateful to be able to do such interesting and useful work, and I deeply appreciate the support I’ve received from the University of Kent throughout my doctoral studies and academic career.

"It is incredibly enjoyable and rewarding work, for which I honestly did not ever expect to receive this kind of recognition.

"I look forward to carry on being part of the charity sector, which improves the lives of people and communities across the UK, and advancing the new academic field of Philanthropic Studies."

Beth grew up in Leeds and went to primary school in the city before attending Notre Dame college.

Beth with her father John Egan and sister Sally Egan

She won a scholarship to Atlantic College in Wales before getting started first at St. Andrews in Anthropology.

Beth then moved to London where her job entailed raising money for good causes, such as the Cardinal Hume Centre for young homeless people.

"But I noticed how little data and evidence there was for charity professionals to draw upon when making big decisions, such as how to spend their fundraising budget or how best to recruit and support volunteers", Beth explained.

"My friends who got jobs in business or government had access to plenty of research and training but in the charity sector there was very little.

"I felt like I was often making it up as I went along, or doing what we’d always done without knowing why.

"I decided to move from working in the charity sector to studying it, so that I could try to help fill that gap."

Beth has since carried out a huge array of research in the field - speaking to many philanthropists in her work.

"It is such a pleasure to meet them and try to understand their motivation and experiences", she added.

"Recently there has been a lot of criticism of wealthy philanthropists, so my latest book In Defence of Philanthropy offers an alternative view, explaining the importance of major gifts and how motivations do not differ that much between rich and non-rich donors.

"We all have personal experiences, such as ill health, and we all hear about problems in the world, such as poverty and climate change, and most of us decide to use some of our resources to try and help make things better."

In December - whilst working from home - Beth visited her office at the university to collect her post.

To her surprise, she had received a letter asking for confirmation to accept her honour.

"I missed the deadline!", Beth told the YEP.

"Thankfully they understood and it was sorted out.

"I got a call from the honours committee asking for me and I just said 'why?'

"It was overwhelming.

"I had no inkling at all that it may happen."

Beth shared the secret with only her husband before breaking the announcement to her family over Zoom on New Year's Eve.

Her father received an MBE in 2009 and mother-of-two Beth said she couldn't wait to see "the other side" of the ceremony.

"It will be special", she said.

"Watching my father receive his was a really proud moment for me.

"I have had such a supportive family environment throughout my life.

"I was a student for a very long time and they have always been there for me.

"My job has given me such satisfaction and I am honoured to have been included this year."

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