ACF publishes new report on funding practices

12 August 2020

The Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) has published a new report on how foundations can align funding practices with their mission, consider the impact of funding practices on those who experience them, and seek to achieve a positive impact beyond a financial contribution.

Funding Practices: The Pillars of Stronger Foundation Practice is the final thematic report emerging from ACF’s Stronger Foundations initiative. It sets out five characteristics of excellent practice in the distribution and allocation of foundation funds, which include recognising the value of different kinds of funding, particularly grants, and seeking to make more than a financial contribution. 

The report is available to view and download

Members can also view the webinar marking the launch.

Funding practices - The pillars of stronger foundationsInformed by 18 months’ gathering evidence, the report encourages foundations to look at their role in the wider ecosystem and understand the impact their funding practices and processes can have on applicants, grantees, communities and other funders.

It also looks at best practice in terms of funding processes, such as setting criteria, conditions, application processes and obtaining feedback, emphasising the importance of applying a lens of diversity, equity and inclusion throughout.

The report marks the end of the ‘discovery’ phase of Stronger Foundations, the largest foundation engagement initiative globally to date, involving more than 100 foundations across six working groups. The result of this stage of work is six thematic reports on topics including diversity, impact, transparency, governance and investment, setting out pillars of stronger foundation practice in each area. ACF will now be embedding Stronger Foundations across its programme of learning, events and policy work, and supporting members to pursue the pillars.

ACF chief executive Carol Mack said:

“We launched our Stronger Foundations initiative at the end of 2017, with the aim of identifying excellent practice for foundations in everything they do, from their grant-making to their governance to their investments. It has been inspiring to work with over 100 members from across the UK, all of whom have been enthusiastic about making the foundation sector stronger, more ambitious and more effective in its pursuit of social good.

“Funding practices is a fitting theme with which to draw this phase to a close. Funding practices are where the rubber hits the road; the interface through which foundations interact most intimately with those that they fund.

“ACF’s plans for the next phase of Stronger Foundations are well underway – including the opportunity to engage more deeply with the findings at our annual conference in November – and I look forward to working with many more foundations to support them to achieve their missions.”

Chair of the Funding Practices working group Chris Llewellyn said:

“Our work in the group has shown us the real value of foundations working together on tricky problems. It has been fantastic to hear at group meetings examples of changes that participants have made in their own organisations as a result of our previous work. That Stronger Foundations will be continually evolving is very positive as it will enable further collaboration and refinement of individual practices.

The reaction of many funders to the systemic shock of Covid-19 has illustrated just how quickly adaptations can be made in a crisis situation. I hope that our work will contribute to a toolkit for ensuring that foundations’ practices match up with their bravest ideals.”

The pillars are that a stronger foundation:

  1. Identifies and selects funding practices that are most likely to fulfil its mission, and designs its processes in accordance with its values
  2. Recognises the unique and vital role of grant funding and is aware of the variety of grants that can be made and the implications of each type
  3. Seeks to achieve positive impact beyond a financial contribution
  4. Proactively strives to understand the effects of its funding on others, and seeks to avoid and redress harm
  5. Regularly reviews its funding practices as part of a culture of learning and thinks collaboratively to enhance its impact.

Please contact Max Rutherford, head of policy, ACF, with any queries: [email protected]