The total amount distributed by the top 300 trusts rose by 50 per cent as they cashed in shareholdings and reinvested in high interest-earning securities, according to a report from the Directory of Social Change.
The Wellcome Trust is now giving away pounds 99m a year after selling some of its shareholdings in the Wellcome pharmaceutical company, and is now a bigger supporter of medical research than the Medical Research Council.
Overall, UK charities are spending pounds 250m a year on medical research, and appear to be increasingly generous in their support of National Health Service projects.
The biggest single grant in 1991 was by the Charles Wolfson Trust - pounds 5m for King's College Hospital in south London. Funds distributed by the Sainsbury family trusts have more than doubled, from pounds 14m to pounds 33m.
A Guide to the Major Trusts praises many charitable organisations for becoming more open about their activities. However, its authors, Andrew Farrow and Luke Fitzherbert, say some remain overly-secretive and have not filed accounts with the Charities Commission for several years.
The top 10 trusts ranked by grant total are: The Wellcome Trust ( pounds 99m), medical and veterinary research, history of medicine; Foundation for Sport and the Arts ( pounds 60m); BBC Children in Need Trust ( pounds 27m); The Tudor Trust ( pounds 20.2m) social welfare, health education; Charity Projects ( pounds 19.7m), homelessness, disability, drug or alcohol misuse, elderly people, Africa; The Gatsby Charitable Foundation ( pounds 16.2m), general; The Telethon Trusts ( pounds 15m), general; The Leverhulme Trust ( pounds 12.6m), research and education; Henry Smith's (Kensington Estate) Charity ( pounds 12m), health, social welfare; the Garfield Weston Foundation ( pounds 9.9m) medical research, education, welfare, general.
A Guide to the Major Trusts, 1993 edition; Directory of Social Change, Radius Works, Back Lane, London NW3; pounds 14.95, plus pounds 1.50 p&p.