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Glamour and charity: What's an It Girl to do?

Partygoing now has a serious purpose for the daughters of the super-wealthy. Andrew Johnson and Rachel Ellis report

Sunday 07 September 2008 00:00 BST
(Getty Images)

They have it all: wealth, looks, youth and hordes of A-list friends. All they need is something to do. In the past, the children of the super-wealthy would squander their inheritances on an idle life of jet-set partying. Now, increasingly, today's crop of heirs, and particularly heiresses, are devoting their lives to charity.

Camilla Fayed, 23, has just taken over her family's charity work and this week hosts her first charity event, to raise money for children with rare genetic disorders. Dasha Zhukova, 27, the daughter of a Russian oil baron and girlfriend of Roman Abramovich, is bankrolling Tuesday's annual fund-raising dinner at London's Serpentine Gallery. Later this month her own gallery, a converted tram shed in Moscow, will open its doors.

They follow in the footsteps of Jemima Khan, the daughter of the late financier Sir James Goldsmith, who became a Unicef ambassador in 2001.

Other young scions of new money who are helping those less fortunate include Jasmine Guinness, 31, who raises money for Aids victims in Africa, and Lydia Hearst, 23, great-granddaughter of the US publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, who set up a charity to bring relief to Darfur.

According to Sue Wixley, of the New Philanthropy Capital group (NPC), which advises the wealthy on giving, the trend for giving to good causes is on the up – a reflection of the vast wealth accumulated by a relatively few individuals in a relatively short time.

Research by the NPC shows that, while the amount of money given away by the UK's population fell by 3 per cent in 2006-07 to £9.5bn, donations by the top 30 donors doubled from £1.2bn in 2008 to £2.4bn, according to The Sunday Times Giving List. While more and more of those people, including plutocrats such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, have said they don't want to leave vast wealth to their children, others are teaching their adult children how to handle wealth – and how to give it away.

"The banks whose clients include these very wealthy individuals have started running summer schools for the young adult children of those clients in recent years," Ms Wixley says. "This year, there have been more than ever before, and philanthropy has become a bigger part of that. It gives children a sense of responsibility."

Camilla Fayed, the daughter of Mohamed al-Fayed, decided to devote her life to charity work after a friend's six-day-old baby died at the Evelina Children's Hospital, part of the Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Trust in London.

"I don't want to be in a glossy magazine for doing nothing any more," she says. "If I appear in a magazine, then I want it to be for something I have done. Charity work is not a job for me. It's something I have been born into."

Ms Fayed's fundraising event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge is a result of her friend's tragedy. Natasha Clarke, a former Vogue model, watched her six-day-old daughter, Eva, die from a rare disorder called methylmalonic acidaemia, which meant her body was unable to break down protein, including her mother's milk.

"When Natasha told me her story over lunch, I was in tears," Ms Fayed adds. "I already do charity work for the Evelina Children's Hospital, but this was a lot more personal. Slowly, year by year, I am taking on more responsibility in my father's charity work. I want to be hands-on and be personal, not just sending a cheque once a year."

It helps, of course, to have wealthy friends who can bid for items donated by stars at charity auctions. For example, the Serpentine's party – which raises much of the gallery's annual funds – is attended by enough A-list firepower to melt the average supermarket celeb magazine. Last year Kylie Minogue, Dennis Hopper and Bianca Jagger were among those present.

"The party is incredibly important," says Tim Jefferies, chairman of the party committee. "The Serpentine has to raise money and the summer party is one of the largest of those efforts. The gallery is free and wouldn't be able to function as it does without this kind of event."

But it is not only the younger generation of wealthy women who are giving more. Research by Philanthropy UK, an advice group for wealthy donors, shows that increasing numbers of women across all age ranges are donating generously, taking the lead when wealthy couples decide to turn to philanthropy.

"A growing number of women are becoming more engaged and influential in their family's philanthropy," its report, published earlier this year, says, adding that women have a "deeper connection" with the issues and are "typically quite emotionally attached to the causes they engage in".

"The baby-boomer generation is about to hand over a huge amount of wealth to its children," the NPC's Ms Wixley adds. "I think the younger generation now want to give away on more of a business model – they want to see the products of their work."

Additional reporting by Mark Jewsbury

Camilla Fayed, 23

Who: The daughter of Mohamed al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods and the Premiership football club Fulham. Career Designer.

Charity work: Says she wants to devote her life to it.

Philanthropy rating: 7/10.

Comment: Good intentions, but her track record so far is still rather thin.

Ivanka Trump, 25

Who: The daughter of the American property tycoon Donald Trump.

Career: Vice-president of real estate development and acquisitions at the Trump Organisation. Has her own jewellery collection.

Charity work: Honorary chair of this year's Miracle on Madison Avenue, a New York event that raises money for the Children's Aid Society (CAS). She will act as spokesperson for the event, and take an active involvement in the CAS.

Philanthropy rating: 2/10.

Comment: Poor effort.

Renu Mehta, 36

Who: The daughter of textile manufacturer turned peace activist Vijay Mehta.

Career: Model and fashion designer.

Charity work: Founded the Fortune Forum in 2006. She said: "We are hoping to completely change the culture of giving in Britain, by stimulating philanthropic habits you'd normally only expect to see across the Atlantic... We will create a new generation of British philanthropists."

Philanthropy rating: 8/10.

Comment: Bill Clinton attends her fundraising bashes and she can raise £1m in an evening.

Jasmine Guinness, 31

Who: Heiress to the Guinness brewing fortune.

Career: Model, designer and the owner of a toyshop called Honeyjam.

Charity work: Set up the Clothesline charity to raise money for Aids victims in Africa. In August, she designed and auctioned off a catwalk-inspired beach hut to raise money for her charity.

Philanthropy rating: 3/10.

Comment: Could do better.

Dasha Zhukova, 27

Who: The daughter of the Russian magnate Alexander Zhukov, currently Deputy Prime Minister under Vladimir Putin. She is the girlfriend of Roman Abramovich, owner of the Premiership football team Chelsea.

Career: Designer.

Charity work: She's making contemporary art available to the masses of Moscow.

Philanthropy rating: 6.5/10.

Comment: Could it be that she is simply dabbling with a new hobby?

Lydia Hearst, 23

Who: The great-granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst and heiress to his publishing fortune. Her mother is Patty Hearst, famously kidnapped in the 1970s and then jailed for helping her captors rob a bank.

Career: Model and columnist.

Charity work: Co-founded Designers for Darfur in 2007. Gets up at 6.30am once a month to deliver food for people with HIV/Aids.

Philanthropy rating: 5/10.

Comment: Not much fundraising in there, but getting up with the workers once a month raises the bar.

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