Family foundations gave a record £1.63bn last year, says report led by Cathy Pharoah of Cass Business School

According to the Family Foundation Giving Trends survey, published by the Association of Charitable Foundations, the biggest giver over this period was the Wellcome Trust, which made grants worth £511m in the year to September 2012

Cathy Pharoah
Cathy Pharoah

Giving by the UK’s 100 largest family foundations reached a record high of £1.63bn last year, despite a 35 per cent drop in donations to them, a new report shows.

The Family Foundation Giving Trends survey, which is in its sixth year and is published by the Association of Charitable Foundations, says that charitable spending exceeded the previous record of £1.61bn recorded in 2007/08. It also rose 18 per cent from the £1.4bn recorded in the last sample, which covered financial years ending between 2010 and 2012.

The report – which was produced by the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy at the Cass Business School – uses figures in the most recently available annual reports of the top 100 family foundations based on the annual value of the grants they give out. Because foundations do not all use the same year-end, the most recently available data spans 2011 to 2013.

By far the biggest giver over this period was the Wellcome Trust, which made grants worth £511m in the year to September 2012, more than triple the £145m given out by the second-largest grant-maker, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, in the year to April 2012.

The ACF said that the drop in the level of donations to family foundations raised concerns about the amount of funds that would be available to support charitable purposes in the future.

The voluntary income of family foundations fell to £233.2m from the £348.2m listed in the previous report – a fall of 34.8 per cent in real terms.

Total income – which includes investments and endowments as well as donations – fell by £191m to £970.3m, equal to 18.6 per cent in real terms.

Cathy Pharoah of the Centre for Giving and Philanthropy, who led the survey, told Third Sector: "The fall in donations occurred because there was a huge amount of giving to foundations just before the recession and it’s not been possible for people to give away amounts at that level since then.

"We’re seeing some money given away through foundations at the moment  because of the wealth that was accumulated in the decade before the recession, and it may be that we won’t have the same levels of wealth to support foundation giving in the future, so it’s something we need to watch."

Pharoah said another concern for the sector was the amount of funding available for charities with a general focus, because the top three largest family foundations – Wellcome, Gatsby and the Leverhulme Trust – concentrate their resources on specialist subject areas.

Giving by family foundations – defined as those founded through family, individual or family business wealth – accounted for 59 per cent of all foundation giving by value in the UK, compared with 42 per cent in the US.

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