UK foundation grantmaking high, despite growing challenges for philanthropy sector


Alliance magazine


Foundation grantmaking remained high in 2021, despite growing challenges for the foundation sector, found the Association of Charitable Foundations’ (ACF) Foundation Giving Trends 2021 report – the annual research on giving, income and assets among the 300 largest foundations. The research is made possible by support from the Pears Foundation.

Overall, Foundation Giving Trends 2021 found that foundation grant-making has continued to grow, rising by 7.8 per cent this year (excluding the Wellcome Trust). Giving by family and personal foundations grew by nearly a quarter (23 per cent), though corporate giving fell by 12 per cent in real terms.

Voluntary income to the top 300 foundations increased strongly in 2019/20, by 11 per cent in real terms. Investment income did not see the same level of growth and fell by over six percent if Wellcome Trust is included.

The report authors, Professor Cathy Pharoah and Dr Catherine Walker, have also looked at how foundation spending and assets have compared with the UK economy as a whole. This analysis, based on the 100 biggest family foundations, finds that both foundation assets and spending have grown significantly more than the UK economy has since the early 2000s.

The research, which is based on analysis of annual accounts of the largest philanthropically funded foundations in the UK, also looked at the response to Covid-19. This additional research was based on further qualitative analysis of the reports and accounts of a purposive sample of 50 foundations. The survey found that foundations responded swiftly and decisively, committing significant amounts to emergency funding and changing practices almost overnight.

Commenting on the report, ACF Chief Executive Carol Mack said: ‘This year’s research shows how foundations have stepped up when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Significantly, foundations are continuing to choose to maintain or increase their grant-making, despite the fact that this research covers a period with the economic uncertainty of Brexit in 2019 and then right into the pandemic in 2020.

‘The research provides a valuable oversight of the key trends in foundation giving, income and assets and I’m sure ACF members will want to look at the findings to see how the sector as a whole responded at a difficult time’.

Read the full report.

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