‘Step change’ needed in funding for social justice charities, report finds

Researchers looked at data on 4,000 grants worth a total of £309m, made by foundations that specialise in funding social justice work

(Photograph: Colin McPherson/Corbis/Getty Images)
(Photograph: Colin McPherson/Corbis/Getty Images)

Social justice charities receive fewer than 2.5 per cent of all grants made by UK foundations, research has found.

The figure is included in a report published today by the grant-maker the Civic Power Fund, which calls on foundations to work together more closely and aim for a “transformational shift” in the way social justice work is funded.

The research looks at funding trends for foundations that specifically support charities “actively trying to drive change in relation to social norms, policy, legislation, or governmental decision-making”.

This includes charities working on community organising, immigration rights and environmental campaigning.

It focuses on more than 4,100 grants worth a total of £309m, made by 47 foundations that specialise in funding social justice work.

The report found that just 0.3 per cent of grants by these specialist funders was spent on charities involved in community organising and only 0.04 per cent of funding by all grantmakers.

But the report acknowledges that a great deal of local organising is done by organisations that are not charities.

The data is drawn from the Charity Commission and the data charity 360Giving, based on 2018/19 figures, plus funding information shared directly with the Civic Power Fund. 

A report, Growing the Grassroots, published by the Civic Power Fund alongside the data, argues that social justice charities will have to fill the gaps left by successive political leaders who “have shown limited interest in or responsiveness to the interests of civil society”.

It says: “We won’t be able to make the transformational shift that’s needed without a step change in approach. 

“[We want to see] funders coming together, working strategically and intentionally to build local leadership, seeding innovation and finding ways to make sure that money flows to grassroots organisations, building their capacity and doing it in a co-ordinated way that also builds long-term momentum and networks across our movements.”

- This article was updated on 9 May 2022 to correct the figure for the total value of grants analysed and the source of the final quote. 

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