Foundations could have more freedom than they think

17 April 2012

A new report into the governance and financial management of endowed charitable foundations – charities that fund their activities mostly from investments – finds that foundations are thinking independently and creatively in today’s tough climate, but suggests that tackling common misconceptions could enable them to do even better.

The report published by the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) on 17 April is the first research of its kind into this sector. It examines the common principles for the management of charitable foundations and, through interviews and case studies, shows the ways different organisations have implemented them to get the best value for their charitable aims.

Commenting, Richard Jenkins, the report’s author, said:

“Foundations already provide significant charitable funding and only trustees can decide what is the right way to achieve their aims. But dispelling false notions – for example that trustees have to defer to industry specialists, or that boards must in all circumstances preserve the endowment, or about what appropriate investment benchmarks might be - could lead trustees to use their asset more boldly.”

The report has identified that there are 900 endowed foundations in England and Wales with income over £500k. With collective assets of £48.5bn – nearly half the Voluntary Sector assets of the UK as a whole - they are together responsible for £2.3bn charitable spending each year.

In a foreword John Kingston OBE, Chair of the ACF, welcomes the timing of the report in the current harsh economic climate. He says ”Foundations should be ambitious in what they expect of their assets.”

The research was sponsored by EsméeFairbairn Foundation, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Nuffield Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Trinity College Cambridge, and Trust for London. 

Download The Governance & Financial Management of Endowed Charitable Foundations (PDF)

Richard Jenkins is a freelance researcher and consultant specialising in the governance and management of charities and foundations.