How philanthropists and the new government can work together for change


Leah Davis


We’re now in the final days before the election. Attention will soon turn away from campaigning and towards how the next government can deliver on their promises.

This is where we believe that a strong partnership with philanthropists and funders can help.  With the right incentives, philanthropy can provide vital funds while government budgets are stretched. But equally importantly, philanthropists have strong local links to deliver change on the ground – often through the community charities they support.

Just before the parties published their manifestos, NPC published our policy ideas for putting the philanthropy-government partnership on a stronger footing.  We’re calling on the government to produce a national philanthropy and social investment strategy to maximise and effectively target giving.

For example, to raise more money the government could pursue policies like Gift Aid reform. Simply making gift aid collection automatic could raise £564 million each year. To make giving better targeted, the strategy should centre on incentivising and encouraging investment and giving in most deprived parts of the country.

Why is this important? Our research shows that at the moment, too much charitable giving and activity are concentrated in the richest areas of the country. Increased giving in deprived areas can boost charitable activity where it’s needed most.

Again, Gift Aid reform could be a way to do this – we’re suggesting differential regional rates of Gift Aid to create a tax incentive to invest in certain regions. Matched giving schemes – where government matches charitable contributions from private funders – could be another key element of attracting more giving where it can have the most impact.

What could this money be spent on? We’re calling for government to direct this cash and existing funding streams into a new ‘Social Growth Fund’. This fund would support social programmes that improve people’s health, get people into work, and tackle inequality in the most deprived areas.

But targeting resources isn’t just about place. It’s also about what projects are most effective.

Maximising the impact of philanthropic giving is central to what we do at NPC. We think everyone should be more reflective about what works. To do that, they need data. We believe transparency can boost impact. That’s why we’re calling on the government to require grant-making foundations to publish their grant-giving data in an accessible, open form.

Working together effectively means both sides taking action. To build a truly effective partnership for change, we need action from philanthropists as well as government. If we can create a culture of open data with incentives to invest, philanthropists will still need review where your funding if being used.

We suggest looking at the places and causes you support in comparison to the indices of multiple deprivation. Based on this, provide more funding for areas where social needs are greater, and target that funding on effective charities

And when you do give, it’s vital to play your part in providing good data. Gather and share data on the location and impact of the services you provide, including which groups benefit, to help government and funders better target their funding.

The country needs a partnership between philanthropy and government on a strong footing. That goes beyond sharing data and to keeping deeper lines of communication open. To make this happen, we’re recommending formal structures to give the voluntary sector a strong voice in national and local government.

Government departments should create new charity advisory boards and publish long-term strategies for working with civil society. This work should be overseen by a council chaired by the Prime Minister. These structures should be reflected in similar ways at regional and local levels.

We think this focus on delivery and impact can help the government and philanthropists meet the public’s enormous desire for change and progress.

The campaigning is nearly done. The real challenge starts now. Can we rise to it?


Leah Davis joined NPC in November 2019 and heads up NPC’s policy and external affairs work

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