Lankelly Chase: what do leading industry figures make of its decision to redistribute assets? 


Shafi Musaddique


The decision by Lankelly Chase to redistribute its assets and close within a five-year timeframe, after 60 years of operations, sent shockwaves beyond the world of philanthropy back in July when it was first announced.  

According to the foundation, they are taking this drastic action because they can no longer deny the contradictions of who controls the money versus who holds the vision and does the work; where the money is invested vs what the proceeds are spent on; and the concept of charity versus the pursuit of justice. 

But what do some of the leading voices in the world of philanthropy make of it? All believe it will be one of the major developments of 2023 in philanthropy. There is, safe to say, a mixed reaction. 

“On one hand, I see it as a bold and thought-provoking move, challenging the traditional philanthropy model entangled with colonial capitalism. It’s an invitation for other funders to reflect on their role in perpetuating harmful systems and consider alternative approaches,” Sevda Kilicalp, head of research and knowledge development at the Philanthropy Europe Association, also known as Philea, tells Alliance. 

“By dismantling the traditional philanthropy model and redistributing its assets, Lankelly Chase is creating space for the emergence of fresh ideas and solutions that can better address societal challenges and promote positive change,” she adds. 

Marie-Louise Gourley, managing director at The Philanthropy Workshop, praises Lankelly Chase for being “well ahead of today’s equity and justice conversations” with what she says is a “bold approach to asset redistribution”. 

Despite the positive movement, Kilicalp says that she is “questioning why it had to be Lankelly Chase, a valued part of the social justice movement, to wind down, while many larger institutions failing at their missions continue to exist”. 

Writing for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Richard Garside says that though the Lankelly Chase Foundation can abolish itself, it “cannot abolish the dynamics of capital accumulation it finds so troubling”, and as such, has created an “unrealistic expectation” in ridding itself of the stains of colonial capitalism.

For Gourley, though, it remains a pivotal moment in philanthropy.  

“In a moment when trillions are stuck on the sidelines – in Foundation endowments, Donor Advised Funds, etc. – getting significantly more capital to the field, faster, is an admirable decision,” she told Alliance.  

Lankelly Chase’s decision to work “out in the open” caught the attention of Carol Mack, chief executive at the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) in the UK. 

“It goes against the grain of philanthropic and charitable institutions who would like the answer before they undertake a path,” said Mack, adding that Lankelly Chase did a “flip reversal” of traditional decision making. 

She also believes there is a growing focus among foundations on how they can use their endowments in pursuit of their mission. 

“It’s now become the norm for foundations to use their endowment to relate to their mission in some way. In the past that was the exception rather than the rule. I think that’s healthy,” Mack told Alliance. 

There is a growing trend in reimagining traditional philanthropy models, with similar decisions taken by The Albert Hunt Trust this summer, the Ivey Foundation in Canada in 2022 and the Atlantic Philanthropies back in 2020.  

Despite the overall positive response to Lankelly Chase, there is some caution for others wanting to emulate the Lankelly Chase decision. 

“Dismantling is one approach to put communities at the heart of social justice reform, but it is not the only way for foundations and organisations to make a significant impact,” says Kilicalp.  

“But we have to be careful here.” 

She warns of a “tendency to focus on surface-level changes and minor adjustments… without fully confronting the deep-rooted problems of institutional racism and inequalities.” 

Still, Lankelly Chase Foundation has understood that its origins arise from a capitalist structure operating in deeply ingrained injustices and ways of thinking. Their dissolution plan demonstrates a “willingness to confront the complexities of its wealth and the systems from which it arises”, says Kilicalp.  

Can Lankelly Chase successfully complete its mission after its sector-shaking announcement?  

For Richard Garside, redistribution of assets is “a huge gamble”.

“If they get it wrong, the long-term loss of funding and support for many small charities, community and activist organisations will be considerable,” he says.

Others remain hopeful.

Only time will tell how this decision plays out but, in the meantime, we applaud the step and hope it will encourage our sector to have challenging conversations, to innovate, and to take bolder steps and more risks,” says Gourley. “These times demand it.”

Shafi Musaddique is a news editor at Alliance magazine.

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Yes, I believe in the realm of philanthropy, one of the significant advancements expected in 2023 will be this.

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