Following the foundations

Guest blog post by Dr. Catherine Walker, Director of The Researchery  Foundation Giving Trends 2018 has just been published, showing the latest figures for grantmaking from the top 300 UK foundations. The news is pretty positive:
  • A fourth year of positive growth in grantmaking, which has now hit £3.3 billion in the latest financial year under analysis (2016/17[1])
  • Assets also reached a new high of £65bn while income hit £3.7bn
  • Family foundation giving totalled more than £2bn
  • Corporate foundation giving shrank only slightly this year to £228m (although this was largely due to lower grantmaking by some top givers rather than a widespread phenomenon)
Foundation Giving Trends 2018 is the latest edition of the long-running series of reports on the finances and funding of the top UK independent charitable foundations (by grantmaking). The annual research is carried out by Cathy Pharoah, Visiting Professor at the Centre for Charitable Giving at Cass Business School, and Dr Catherine Walker of The Researchery (@DrCatWalker). The report is published by the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF), and generously supported by Pears Foundation. 63% of foundations increased their grantmaking in real terms in 2016/17 on the back of growth in income and/or assets. But while average asset growth was 5%, this shrank to 2.5% after excluding the giant Wellcome Trust, demonstrating that some large foundations are benefitting more than others. Overall, this latest report shows a vibrant and diverse sector which is continuing to grow, and foundations which are swiftly passing on income or asset gains to beneficiaries. This year’s report’s special feature looked at place-based funding initiatives. Place-based working is an evolving concept which doesn’t have one single definition but rather describes a style and philosophy of approach that seeks to deliver more holistic and collaborative solutions to social issues in a local area. Approaches range from asset-based community development, to ‘systems change’, to localised grantmaking and giving schemes intended to corral local donations. The analysis, which featured grantmakers of different sizes (by grantmaking), showed that foundations have a leading place in taking forward place-based initiatives and contributing to current debates among policy-makers on strengthening local communities. The report shows the value and power of data, particularly structured longitudinal datasets, in illuminating trends in grantmaking. In this, the data really is the Holy Grail and the star of the show, and we are lucky to have a great partnership with Charity Financials who provide the baseline data every year. It’s always good to have new sources of complementary data. In particular, we are often asked who foundations give to, and despite our best efforts at triangulating sources, there simply isn’t one good source of data for this….yet. But we are keenly watching the progress of 360Giving in this regard. If more foundations publish their grants data collectively to the 360Giving Standard, we will have the means to start answering the age-old question of what causes foundations fund, and seeing the trends develop over time. That’s why we support the development of 360Giving and encourage more foundations to take part: because we believe that knowledge is power, and transparency shines a light on a sector which deserves to be seen more. [1] Due to the time-lag in foundations publishing their accounts such analyses are always slightly backdated.