It is clear to us that, although we live in a multicultural society, grant-making foundations and trusts are not always reflective or representative of the UK’s diversity. Currently, 99% of charity foundations trustees are white; men outnumber women 2 to 1; 60% of trustees are aged over 65; and two-thirds of foundation trustees are recruited informally. This could lead to some foundations under-investing in certain types of organisations and movements. We are also concerned about foundations’ transparency and accountability. There is a growing appetite from the public for organisations to show where foundations’ money originates, how it is spent, and how transparent and accountable they are. For too long, foundations have been evaluated simply by size – of what they give, and/or how much they own; it is time for a new conversation on who they fund and what they fund.
UK grant-making foundations and trusts (which we will refer to here as ‘foundations’, for concision) have assets of over £62 billion of untaxed philanthropic capital. Their donated money is used to support charities, social enterprises, people in need, and good causes through grants (and other financial instruments) amounting to over £6.5 billion in 2018. Foundations can respond quickly to crises and provide vital funding to unpopular or not-yet-popular causes. Yet these philanthropic organisations seem to lack accountability to any authority other than charity law – e.g. to donors, the public, government, or a common code of conduct. Most of the capital resources and charitable activities of these bodies are controlled by groups of people that do not always reflect the population as a whole or the communities that they serve. Furthermore, foundations do not need to be transparent or accountable for their practices, and this can further influence and affect what gets funded.