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‘It’s time for a movement-based funding approach’: meet incoming 360Giving trustee Jon Cracknell

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Over the coming months, we are delighted to be welcoming six new trustees onto our board. One of them is Jon Cracknell, Trust Secretary of the Ecology Trust. In this post, we speak to Jon about his experience and the changes he’s seen in environmental philanthropy, and what excites him about joining 360Giving. You can get to know all our new trustees in our Trustees’ Week 2020 blogpost.

Hi Jon! Where are you right now? Jon Cracknell headshot

Hello! I’m at my home in Reading.

What got you into philanthropy? 

I ended up in philanthropy fortuitously. I had done a Politics and Social Sciences degree and a Masters in Mass Communication, where I focused on how environment groups used the media. I ended up working for a public affairs company in Covent Garden that mainly worked for charities and NGOs. By chance I got connected to the Goldsmith family in the 1990s. I started working for the family as a political researcher, helping to write books and speeches. When Sir James Goldsmith died in 1997, the family inherited his estate, and their philanthropic work developed from there. There had been a tradition of supporting environmental causes but they didn’t really know how they were going to do that in future. So, basically, I’ve worked with them since then to try to make environmental grants in the most strategic way we can manage.

Have you seen much change in environmental philanthropy over the years?

Yes, one thing that’s changing at the moment is the arrival of some very large foundations making grants on climate change, such as the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and Quadrature Climate Foundation (QCF). Lots of big funders have become more professionalised in their giving on the environment over time. They weren’t there in the same way when I started doing this work. They have a very distinct way of making grants in the sense that they often have their own advocacy strategies which their grantees are helping to deliver. That is quite different from most foundations in the UK, which are a lot more hands-off. The big climate funders have staff of their own who are at least as experienced as those they are giving grants too. It’s important to be aware of this, quite apart from the scale of the giving, it’s a different way of giving. 

Has environmental philanthropy become more evidence driven?

Not enough yet. There is a real buzz about climate philanthropy, in terms of there being increasing numbers of initiatives to link foundations together and encourage more giving on climate. But I don’t think those make enough use of data either on the supply side of the market – where 360Giving is focused – or on the demand side. There are notable exceptions, for example the ClimateWorks Foundation in California just produced a really useful piece of research on how much money is given to climate causes around the world – it was estimated at just 2% of global giving. So there are some benchmark pieces of research coming out, but I think there’s huge potential to do more with open data. Many funders still operate on a 1-2-1 and quite transactional basis, with each grantee. 

What we’re still failing to do, despite data becoming more available, is to think about a movement-based funding approach. There is so much potential to use 360Giving data to drive some of these conversations. 

What excites you about joining 360Giving?

360Giving has got a long way in its first five years in establishing credibility and the principle of open data. I was on a call the other day with Chief Execs of some of the largest foundations in the UK, and three or four people mentioned 360Giving’s work, which was great to hear.

With the push for government data to be more included in the 360Giving Data Standard, it feels like that open data transition is really happening now, off the back of 360Giving’s hard work so far. The question now is how we use that data to improve the targeting of grants going forwards, and advance the ‘movement ecology’ of the things being funded. It feels like we’re in the foothills of what could be done there. I’m excited to be part of exploring how we can use open data to transform philanthropy over the next five to ten years.

Jon will join 360Giving as a trustee, in December 2020. You can get to know all our incoming trustees in our Trustees’ Week 2020 blogpost.