AGM 2023: Delivering for members in the here and now 

14 June 2023

At our AGM on 13 June 2023, chief executive Carol Mack OBE reflected on the past year, our new five year strategy and welcomed new and re-elected trustees – congratulations to Sufina Ahmad MBE, Sarah Benioff, Síofra Healy and Emily Crawford. This is her speech.

Much has changed in the world since we last came together at our AGM – things are very tough for many people and for our planet. But what has not changed is our unwavering commitment to supporting you, our members as you respond to the challenges you face in your work as foundations.

Over the past year we have developed and launched our five year strategy, which will chart our course until 2027. Many of you helped us to shape this strategy– for which, many thanks, we are really proud of the result and hope you like it too.

Our new purpose is to strengthen foundations to rise to the challenges of our times. 

And to achieve this we have set ourselves four strategic objectives;

•  To support foundations to achieve excellent practice
•  To advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for our sector – and for ACF, it is important to be the change we want to see, and while we’ve made a start, we recognise this is part of a journey – one in which we have a way to go here
•  Our third objective is to strengthen connections across and beyond the sector
•  And our fourth is to sustain a landscape where foundations can thrive – our policy and influencing work on your behalf.

To achieve all of these objectives it is critically important that we continue to give you a compelling membership offer that meets your needs and expectations as a community in the months and years ahead.

With any strategy there’s always a risk that you overestimate what you can do in year 1 and underestimate what you can achieve by year 5. And we are certainly guilty of this at ACF. 

But we have big ambitions for our strategy and so we are trying to pace ourselves so that we stay the course – we are running a marathon, not a sprint.

This year - 2023 - is a bit of a transition year. You will see some changes:alr

•  We are developing our website to make things easier to find
•  We are rethinking how we do our annual conference, which will take place next year. We’ve got some focus groups with member planned to get your views on our ideas – if you’re interested in taking part, please email [email protected]
•  And we are making our practical guidance punchier – shorter reports with more takeaways. In the autumn we will launch the first of a series of Stronger Foundations case studies. These will show how in practice foundations from across the diversity of our membership are striving to achieve the excellent practice set out in our six Stronger Foundations reports.

We are also making time to really focus on how we can most effectively arrange our work to enable us to achieve our four objectives over the next five years. Our board, comprised of members, will be signing off our implementation plan at their September awayday. They will also be looking at how we can develop ACF as an organisation so that we are able to support you well into the future. We want to practice what we preach. And this includes ensuring that our environmental policy and our DEI policies and practice live up to the guidance that we give to foundations through the Funder Commitment on Climate Change and our Stronger Foundations reports.

But we are not just thinking about the future, important though that is.

We are delivering for you in the here and now.

Last year we;

•  Supported 17 networks, on a range of issues, from mental health to place based funding. And we developed two new networks, on economic justice and one especially for family foundations
•  Showcased 120 opportunities for funders to collaborate – all listed on our Funders Collaborative Hub website
•  We published our annual foundations salary benchmarking survey – with the next issue out later this year
•  We had an astounding 1,960 attendances at our events from 296 member organisations

We welcomed the 100th signatory to the Funder Commitment on Climate Change – a framework to help you make the connection between the climate crisis and the work of your foundation, whatever its mission. Next month we will publish our third annual progress report with practical examples of how signatories are putting the commitment into practice. If like me you are deeply concerned about what humanity is doing to our planet, but are not sure how to turn concern into action, keep an eye out for this report – it will have some simple and inspiring examples. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the climate crisis but even taking a small step is a change in the right direction. 

And finally we closed 2023 by welcoming our 453rd member – our highest membership ever, and a 20% increase over the past five years. 

But we are not complacent. Times are tough. And the contribution of foundations is greatly needed. So it is more important than ever that foundations continue to be their best selves and rise to these challenges. And it is more important than ever that ACF is fit for purpose and able to support you as you do this.

Part of that is about ensuring that the operating environment continues to be supportive of your work. Already this year:

•  We have worked with the Charity Commission for England and Wales to ensure that they understand the issues affecting foundation endowments as they review their forthcoming guidance for trustees on charity investments – hugely important for foundations
•  We have joined with other sector infrastructure bodies to collaborate on issues that matter to us all – through ACF’s participation in the Civil Society Group. Earlier this year we were delighted to see the government announce £100m of much needed funding for the charities that need it most and which are helping people and communities most affected by the cost of living increases
•  We published Foundation Giving Trends – setting out the contribution that the largest 300 foundations made to society in 2020 and 2021. We also asked you how the data we publish on the foundation sector in the future can be even better. Building on what you told us we are embarking on some exciting ways to make a new research product. This will showcase data about foundations in a way that will meet your needs in the years ahead and allow you to use that data to deliver stronger practice
•  And last, but certainly not least, we have taken many opportunities this year to champion the fantastic work that you are doing – at conferences, with government, and in the media.

We know that with increasing demands on your time, and on your resources, your membership of ACF is a significant commitment to the foundation community and we deeply appreciate your support.

So in closing, I would like to say some important thank yous.

Firstly to my fantastic, talented, dedicated staff team, many of whom are here today, for all that they bring to their work and all that they do on your behalf. 

To my amazing board for their wisdom, challenge and support – all in equal measure and greatly needed.

To our official partners, Cazenove, CCLA, Mercer and Ruffer – and to all those who grant fund our special initiatives.

And finally and most importantly – to you. For being here this evening, and for your belief that things can be better and your belief in the power of connection, working together so that we truly can be more than the sum of our parts. 

Read ACF’s annual report 2022 and Strategy 2023-2027.

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