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Informing policy discussions


Guest blog by Max Rutherford, Head of Policy at the Association of Charitable Foundations.

A few years ago while working at a charitable foundation, I was part of a group of trust and foundation representatives that secured a meeting with the then Justice Secretary to talk about prison reform.

Max RutherfordIn advance of the meeting, we attempted to approximate the financial contribution made by charitable foundations to prison-based charities and other not for profits, with the expectation that we would be asked this question early on in our discussion. Indeed, we hoped that we could preempt his question and include it as a key part of our brief to the officials in advance, in order to demonstrate both our sector’s legitimacy and interest (both financial and ideological) in penal reform.

After a lengthy process of calling round to our wider networks and peers across some of the foundation sector, we arrived at a figure that felt incomplete and unscientific. It was likely a massive under-estimate, and didn’t feel sufficiently grounded in evidence or accuracy compared to the gravitas of the opportunity. In the meeting itself, we offered the figure, but with caveats that demonstrated a lack of confidence in our own data, detracting from the potential impact we may have otherwise made.

Last year, in a new role, I convened a meeting of the ACF Members’ Policy Forum focused on the policy and practice landscape of preventing child sexual exploitation.

Before approaching potential speakers from the Home Office and the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, I was able to use 360Giving to identify how much funding had been awarded by charitable foundations that are sharing their grants data with this platform. Using GrantNav this took about 15 minutes, and provided a clear and robust picture of the contribution that foundations have made in the last 10 years on this issue, the geographical spread of this funding, and the principal recipients. I was also able to compare this to the level of grant funding from several statutory bodies that have shared their data – which showed that in many cases foundations are the more substantive funder. This not only provided a solid basis for the briefing, but made a strong case that foundations are serious players in this space, both in terms of longevity of interest and overall spending clout.

There is huge potential for using 360Giving’s open grants data platforms to inform policy discussions, and to demonstrate with accuracy and confidence the important role that foundations play across an incredibly diverse range of issues that are of interest to government and other decision-makers.

With 360Giving and the tools that have been created to use the data it collates, it’s never been easier to understand the funding landscape and derive evidence to support policy change.


Search grants data using GrantNav or visualise grantmaking by individual funders using 360Insights.