Record £3.3bn of grants handed out by charitable foundations in 2016/17, report says

Figures from the Association of Charitable Foundations say this was a 10.9 per cent increase on the previous financial year

The report
The report

Charitable foundations gave out a record high of £3.3bn worth of grants in 2016/17, according to new figures from the Association of Charitable Foundations.

Foundation Giving Trends 2018, published today, says there was a 10.9 per cent increase in the amount of money awarded by foundations in the 2016/17 financial year compared with the previous 12 months.

The report, which focuses on the largest 300 UK foundations by grant-making, also found that 63 per cent of foundations increased their grant-making in real terms in 2016/17.

But the report says the rise was due in part to some very large individual gifts.

"The big leap in this year’s giving was driven principally by the circumstances and decision-making of a few individual foundations and some exceptional giving," according to the report, which was produced by Cathy Pharoah, co-director of the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy Research at Cass Business School, and Catherine Walker of The Researchery.

Income from donations and investments both grew at about 10 per cent, according to the report.

The top 300 foundations, which represent 90 per cent of all foundation giving in the UK, had £65bn in assets, the report says.

But asset growth fell from 5 per cent to 2.4 per cent once the Wellcome Trust – by far the largest foundation with assets totalling £21.9bn – was removed from the study.

The total spending by charitable foundations was £4.5bn in 2016/17 and income rose by 9.6 per cent to a total of £3.7bn.

Family foundations awarded £2bn in the year covered by the report, but corporate foundations handed out only £228m.

An increasing number of foundations are also turning to social investment, according to the report, with the foundations in the study spending £120m on the concept, an 18 per cent increase on the previous year.

Speaking at the launch event for the report in London this morning, Pharoah said that the political environment had made it difficult to predict the results for this year’s report.

"This could have created greater caution among foundations, and in fact it probably did," she said.

"But in spite of this we saw record grant-making of £3.3bn by the top 300 trusts, the highest yet and the fourth year of continuous positive growth."

But Pharoah also warned that the impact of ongoing political and social issues, especially around Brexit, could see the growth of the past four years stymied.

"Maybe we see lower growth next year," she said. "I don’t feel, in spite of the good results and the four years of positive growth, that we can confidently say we are looking at some new boom or growth trajectory in foundation giving.

"The socio-economic pressures of the current environment continue to require foundations to reflect on their spending strategies and try to get maximum value from their grant-making."

Walker told the launch event that Brexit had focused many foundations’ policies on place-based giving schemes, especially in areas that had been "left behind".

She said that "it does call for agile, responsive and resourced organisations that are able and willing to collaborate for the greater good", and many charitable foundations were well placed to address that need.

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