Giving Trends - Top 300 Foundation Grant-Makers - 2015 report


Building on both the data and the track record of its companion publication, Family Foundation Giving Trends, this series of reports aims to paint a cumulative, illuminating and easily accessible picture of the nature and extent of foundation giving.

The reports focus on the Top 300 independent charitable foundations, who account for 90% of all giving by value. This year the figures (drawn mostly from annual accounts) show a relatively optimistic financial picture. With grant-making reaching the £2.5bn mark, the data tells a compelling story about the resilience of the foundation model in the face of continuing external pressures. That this figure was reached in spite of a £50 million decrease in grant-making by the Wellcome Trust in 2014 (following a period of major spending commitments), is especially striking. However, in real terms, this year's figure still falls some way short of the £2.9bn (adjusted) that was given by this year's Top 300 prior to the financial crash of 2008. Growth is therefore tentative, the after-effects are still being felt, and trustees are still facing challenging choices.

A significant factor contributing to the upturn in grant-making was the 3.6% growth in foundation income, to £2.8bn. This growth almost entirely rests on the recovery of investment returns. With increases in income serving as the strongest predictor of grant-making levels, it is perhaps unsurprising that our research shows increased grant-making levels in over 75% of foundations that experienced a concurrent growth in income.

New highs have also been reached in terms of the assets of the Top 300 Foundations which, in the time period covered by this report, have climbed to a record total of £52bn. This figure represents a real-terms growth of almost 13% since the last report.

This year's report features two new pieces of analysis. The first details the important contribution made by corporate foundations, which collectively account for around 9% of foundation giving. The second is a look at the wider ecosystem of charitable grant-making, which shows the central role of independent foundations within a sector that distributes grants from public, private and charitable funders to a range of key social initiatives.

Over the coming years this series will continue to track key indicators of the health of the foundation sector. This vital research, a collaboration between Professor Cathy Pharoah of Cass Business School, City University London, the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) and substantially supported by Pears Foundation, will help us identify patterns of change, enabling philanthropists, practitioners and policymakers to make more informed decisions based on a clearer and more sophisticated understanding of the sector.

The Giving Trends - Top 300 Foundation Grant-Makers - 2015 report is available for download at the link below.

The Giving Trends - Top 300 Foundation Grant-Makers - 2014 report is also still available.

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