Grant-making by foundations increased to a record £3.7bn as demand grew sharply in 2020-21

25 May 2023

Grant-making by the top 300 foundations increased by 13% in real-terms in 2020-21 from the previous year to a record £3.7bn, according to new research published by the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF).

This is far in excess of the average annual growth of grant-making over the five years prior to 2020-21, which stands at 5.7%. 

More than half of the top 300 (57%) increased their grant-making in real terms. This growth can also be seen in both family and corporate foundation giving in 2020-21. Family foundation giving grew by 11%, with corporate foundation giving reaching a new high of £239m, an increase of 17%.

Other key findings are:

  • Total spending grew by 8%, to £5.1bn between 2019-20 and 2020-21
  • Reported total income was 10% lower than in the previous years, sitting at £3.8bn - with falls seen in voluntary income (although not across the board) and, investment income - with a growing shift towards total return approaches
  • Amid major market volatility total assets grew in 2020-21 by 19% to a new high of £87.3bn
  • Combined support and governance costs remains stable at around 6% of total spending
  • Some foundations also redistribute the funds of others, with government and co-funding contributing £70m to grant-making by the top 300 in 2020-21.

The findings come from Foundation Giving Trends 2022, a report on the finances and funding of UK foundations. The report analyses data from the top 300 independent philanthropically-funded charitable foundations, listed by levels of grant-making.  The research was carried out by Dr Cat Walker of The Researchery. The research was generously supported by Pears Foundation.

The report’s  focus is on foundations’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-21, with a particular spotlight on how foundations tackled the disproportionate impact on communities experiencing inequity, and especially racial inequity. 

Commenting on the report, ACF chief executive Carol Mack OBE said:

“This year’s research shows how foundations stepped up during the Covid-19 pandemic. They increased their spend on grant-making - making over £430m in covid-related grants to charities from 2019-21.  Simultaneously foundations responded by adapting their grant-making practices; collaborating with other funders, pooling funds and flexing their grant-making, all while keeping their own costs stable.”

Dr Catherine Walker said:

“Since its inception (in its current form) in 2014, Foundation Giving Trends has provided valuable evidence that helps us understand the contribution independent money makes to the wider funding landscape, providing insightful, robust data on which foundations the wider voluntary sector, government policy-makers, and the academic community can rely.” 

Notes to editors
1. For queries and clarifications, contact [email protected]
2. Link to report:
3. The Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) is the leading membership association for foundations and independent grant-makers  in the UK: 
4. The researcher is Dr Cat Walker, founder of The Researchery, an independent research consultancy working exclusively with and for voluntary sector organisations.
5. Pears Foundation is an independent, British family foundation rooted in Jewish values. Its work is concerned with building long-term relationships, providing core funding and offering more than money through organisational and leadership development programmes: 

Investment seminars

27 and 28 November, central London

Book your place