By publishing a rating on an annual basis, the foundation world will, for the first time, be publicly accountable for the diversity of its leaders and the disclosure of its activities. A rating system is not a ranking, meaning we will not compare them to each other.

The aim of the exercise is to: alert foundations to the dimensions of our accountability, transparency and diversity which others feel are most important, and thereby to help them focus their efforts on improving these aspects in their activities. We hope to drive foundations toward the many good practice materials and supports that exist that can improve performance and accountability, by (for the first time) creating a real incentive for foundations to develop on these factors, within a specified time frame. It will also encourage a new dialogue about foundation best practices and decision-making.

From the criteria we identify for each of the three pillars we are interested in – transparency, accountability and diversity – we will create a detailed rubric to gather this data. Two analysts will gather the information independently and ‘blind’ of one another, where the foundations to be assessed will be randomly assigned to the analysts; this method will allow us to minimize bias between the researchers. It is a technique that has been used in many areas from university selection interviews, determining grant funding from the UK research councils to peer-reviewed publications in academia.

We will rate only UK-registered grant-making foundations. We will not include entities where the funds are replenished by the government (e.g. the research councils).

The sample of foundations to be assessed will be drawn from the top 300 foundations, as identified by the ACF combined with the UK community foundations. The data to be used for the rating will be gathered independently of the foundations. The criteria will be based on those already used in other sectors, plus what this sector feels is appropriate: for this, we are conducting an online survey to gather the views of grantees and grant seekers. The rating will be published annually for at least three years.

The research consultancy and think-tank, Giving Evidence, will carry out this research under the direction of philanthropy expert Caroline Fiennes.  We intend that this work will complement initiatives such as the DEI Coalition, Future Foundations, and Funders for Race Equality. The aim is to create real pressure to change by shining a bright and continuous light on foundation practices. Other funders are also considering the proposal and may join the funding group during the initial three years of the project.

What are the criteria, and how can a foundation do well on them?

We are publishing our ‘starting criteria’, downloadable here. These are the criteria with which we are starting: we fully expect that some will turn out to be ambiguous, duplicative, or unworkable, so may vary a bit from the final list (which we will also publish). That document includes the provenance of each criterion. We will publish the eventual list that we actually use.

We are also publishing guidance for any foundation on doing well on the rating. For example, one criterion is around having an accessible website, so we include guidance on how to do that.

If you are interested in being part of the funding group for this project, please contact

Danielle Walker Palmer


Friends Provident Foundation
Pronouns: She/Her

Any press inquiries contact:

Jake Furby
Communications Manager

Friends Provident Foundation

Pronouns: They/Their