Entrepreneurial philanthropy in the 21st Century: the role of entrepreneurial capital in contemporary practice

Jillian Gordon, Eleanor Shaw, Kay Henderson, C. Harvey

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

62 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: Philanthropy is emerging as a key activity of wealthy entrepreneurs. Motivated by the opportunity and capacity to support economic and social regeneration, anecdotal evidence and emerging research suggests that successful, high net worth entrepreneurs are becoming significant players in the global arena of philanthropy (Bishop and Green, 2008; Schervish, 2008). Considerations of entrepreneurial philanthropy are however largely absent from the entrepreneurial discourse. The objectives of this paper are to consider the antecedents of contemporary UK entrepreneurial philanthropy and propose theoretical perspectives relevant to developing an informed understanding of contemporary entrepreneurial philanthropy. A final objective is to present an analysis of the entrepreneurial capital of wealthy entrepreneurs involved in philanthropy and to consider the role of such capital in entrepreneurial philanthropy.Prior WorkDespite the UK's strong tradition of philanthropy and the media attention afforded to contemporary high profile entrepreneurs actively engaged in the redistribution of their personal wealth for social gain, considerations of the philanthropic endeavours of wealthy, successful entrepreneurs have rarely been considered by entrepreneurship scholars. As research interests in entrepreneurial philanthropists are at an early stage, this topic presents opportunities for theoretical and empirical advances. Approach The paper presents a profile of 100 successful high net worth UK entrepreneurs involved in philanthropy and an analysis of their entrepreneurial capital. This profile and the analysis presented are based upon a database containing information about the entrepreneurial capital possessed by 100 high net worth entrepreneurs located in the U.K. and known to be engaged in philanthropy. The sample was purposefully selected to provide rich data regarding the philanthropic activities of wealthy entrepreneurs and was created by reviewing information publicly available from seven data sources. ResultsAnalysis provides insights into the profiles of successful, wealthy entrepreneurs engaged in philanthropy and consideration of their entrepreneurial capital reveals patterns relevant to understanding the amount and forms of capital possessed by this group of entrepreneurs. For example, these entrepreneurs are well educated, many with degrees and post graduate qualifications, have significant business and business ownership experience including portfolio and serial entrepreneurship and, include within their list of contacts individuals from the fields of politics and philanthropy. ImplicationsWhile entrepreneurial philanthropy is not a new phenomenon findings suggest it is evolving. The application of capital theory (Bourdieu, 1986; Firkin, 2003) used to structure the analyses of data proved to be informative in developing an understanding of the types of capital on which successful entrepreneurs draw when engaging in philanthropy. This theoretical lens also provided insights into the elite nature of contemporary UK entrepreneurial philanthropists. ValueThe paper contributes to a theoretical understanding of contemporary entrepreneurial philanthropy by presenting a robust conceptual framework which is informed by capital theory (Bourdieu 1986; Firkin's 2003). By presenting a theoretically informed analysis of the economic, social, cultural and symbolic capital of entrepreneurs involved in philanthropy, the paper contributes to emerging discourse and debate about the nature of contemporary entrepreneurial philanthropy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Nov 2010
Event33rd Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference - London
Duration: 2 Nov 20104 Nov 2010


Conference33rd Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference


  • entrepreneurial philanthropy
  • entrepreneurial capital
  • social capital
  • cultural capital


Dive into the research topics of 'Entrepreneurial philanthropy in the 21st Century: the role of entrepreneurial capital in contemporary practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this