We’ve spoken at length about the Royal Family and their long history of charitable involvement. Following the passing of the Queen, we shared a retrospective of her record of charity patronage, and spoke about the direction we might expect the new king to take as he takes over or shares the various roles previously occupied by his mother. We’ve learned since that many of these changes have been slow to take effect – some charities previously patroned by the queen are still awaiting confirmation of continued royal involvement, for example. But this week saw a major step in the right direction for King Charles’ engagement with the sector.
This week saw the king celebrating his 75th birthday, but it wasn’t simply a day of festivities. Rather, we’ve seen numerous appearances and announcements designed to solidify the nation’s confidence in the king’s commitment to charitable work. The most apparent of these has been the announcement of the Coronation Food Project. This new initiative aims to address food waste and hunger, and was backed by a donation of £1million for fridges and freezers to support food banks. To kick off the new project, the King appeared at South Oxfordshire Food and Education Alliance, and an article was posted in the Big Issue on the importance of this work.
It’s likely no coincidence that the king has taken the opportunity to support food banks, as their usage has increased over the past few years. The opportunity to kick off his regency by backing those who rely on this support is an important way to set a precedent for his commitment to tackling the most pressing issues.
Homelessness and hunger, however, are not the causes that the king is most associated with. His longstanding affiliation with environmental charities was one of the strongest connections we saw the public make between a royal and a cause in our May research – 36% of the public were keen to see him continue this work. Homelessness, on the other hand, was a concern that the public wanted to see Prince William engaging with. Whether the king’s new initiative sees the public shift their associations remains to be seen.
Other announcements in the past week have served to highlight the king’s decision to maintain his earlier work in the sector, however. While there was an expectation from some that the new Prince of Wales would take over the duties King Charles carried out while at the head of the Prince’s Trust, instead it has been renamed to the King’s Trust, a symbol that the king is to remain at the helm. It was also the first time that the King’s (previously Queen’s) Award for Voluntary Service was awarded, with the recipients being informed on the king’s birthday. This prestigious accolade has been considered the top honour available for volunteerism, offering due recognition to individuals who have made significant contributions to their communities.
The refresh of these names is unlikely to largely shift the identity of these institutions, but may be expected to bring about a renewed interest in them. Even if it’s short lived, these efforts may bring about refreshed interest in volunteerism and should be celebrated. We’re hesitant to suggest that there might be any significant shifts, but are hopeful in the royals’ capacity to inspire volunteering. We conducted research in May around The Big Help Out, an effort by the royal family to inspire community events around the time of the coronation for people to volunteer with. The awareness of the scheme was reasonably high, with around four in every five people having heard of it, and young people were taking part in significant numbers.
As we say happy birthday to King Charles, it’s refreshing that the opportunity hasn’t been squandered to bolster his commitment to charitable causes. While challenges in stoking national interest persist, the monarch's initiatives lay a solid foundation for a continuing positive impact.