Most UK foundations increased their grant-making in 2017/18 despite suffering falling income, according to research published today by the Association of Charitable Foundations.
Foundation Giving Trends 2019, which is produced annually, reveals 64 per cent of the top 300 UK foundations gave more in real terms than they did in 2016/17.
But their total income fell by 1.7 per cent to £3.7bn, which was mainly due to a 5.9 per cent decline in investment income and static growth in voluntary income.
Total giving was £2.9bn, which is 9 per cent down on last year.
But if the Wellcome Trust, by far the biggest foundation, is excluded, total giving increased by 9.9 per cent.
Wellcome awarded grants worth £349m, compared with £845m the previous year. According to the report this "principally reflects the timing of significant commitments" rather than any downward trend in giving.
The report reveals that 49 per cent of foundations made higher levels of grants than in the previous year even though their income, assets or both were down this year.
Family and personal foundations represent just over half (53 per cent) of giving by value of the top 300. Corporate foundations make up 9 per cent.
The top 300's net assets were £67bn in 2017/18, which is up by 1.8 per cent. But the figure is 1.1 per cent down if the Wellcome Trust's huge assets are excluded.
Lempriere Pringle 2015 recorded the largest increase in grant spending of £44m, followed by the Leverhulme Trust (£29m).
Smaller organisations achieved the highest percentage increases in grants, led by the A B Charitable Trust (77 per cent) and the Mike Gooley Trailfinder Charity (44 per cent)
Carol Mack, chief executive of the ACF, said: "This year’s research highlights foundations’ ability to respond to the needs of those they fund, even when their own fortunes are turbulent."
Report co-author Cathy Pharoah, visiting professor at the Centre for Charitable Giving at Cass Business School, said: "This year’s findings demonstrate how individual foundations address the challenges of an increasingly complex funding environment and demonstrate the importance of digging deeper into the headline trends to see the stories that lie beneath.
"Although overall giving continues to increase, it is notable that many foundations saw reductions in their income or assets, which may be a driver for decision-making in future years."