Big Giver: Calouste Gulbenkian foundation

Andrew Barnett, director of the foundation, says it is taking an increasingly collaborative approach

Calouste Gulbenkian foundation
Calouste Gulbenkian foundation

The Calouste Gulbenkian foundation was set up in 1956 in Portugal, with a branch in the UK opening at the same time.

The foundation's sizeable endowment has a total asset value of about £2.5bn. Its overall annual budget is £90m. The UK branch spends £3m a year, £2.2m of which goes towards grants.

Although it is predominantly a proactive funder, using its own research to find organisations to support, it also runs an open fund.

Charities can apply for funding for projects that meet the foundation's three strategic aims - supporting cultural understanding; supporting the protection of the environment; and helping to build relationships and reduce social exclusion. The projects must also, says director Andrew Barnett, be "truly innovative and exceptional".

"The organisation has to demonstrate that the idea hasn't been tried before and show how the project will have an impact beyond its immediate outcomes," he says. "For example, if it could be replicated elsewhere."

He says the foundation has recently seen a growing interest in its funding from the sector. This is useful, Barnett says, because its staff can keep an eye on fields where there is an increasing need for support and then tailor its programmes to organisations operating in these areas.

Barnett says that once a decision has been made to fund an organisation, the foundation has a close relationship with it. "It has to go beyond financial support," he says.

"We're taking an increasingly collaborative approach. We even host some projects in our offices."

Currently, these include the Clore Social Leadership Programme and the Making Every Adult Matter initiative - a coalition of four charities that was formed to influence policy and services for socially excluded adults with multiple needs.

Barnett says that because the foundation aims to work closely with funding recipients, it is moving towards making fewer, larger grants that usually last between one and three years.

Although there is no minimum or maximum amount, the average grant is about £50,000.

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