Grant-making by foundations rose to record £3.7bn in 2020-21


Grant-making by the top 300 foundations increased by 13% in real-terms in 2020-21 from the previous year, according to research from the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF).

Reaching a record £3.7bn, this was well above the average annual growth of grant-making over the five years prior to 2020-21 (5.7%). 

The findings come from Foundation Giving Trends 2022, which analyses data from the top 300 independent philanthropically-funded charitable foundations, listed by levels of grant-making.  The research was carried out by Dr Cat Walker of The Researchery and supported by Pears Foundation.

The report’s focus is on foundations’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-21, with a spotlight on how foundations tackled the disproportionate impact on communities experiencing inequity, and especially racial inequity. 

The research found that more than half of the top 300 (57%) increased their grant-making in real terms. This was also seen in both family and corporate foundation giving. Family foundation giving grew by 11%, with corporate foundation giving reaching a new high of £239m – an increase of 17%.

Other key findings:

Total spending grew by 8%, to £5.1bn between 2019-20 and 2020-21

Reported total income was 10% lower than in the previous years, at £3.8bn. Falls were seen in voluntary income (although not across the board) and investment income where there is a growing shift towards total return approaches

Total assets grew in 2020-21 by 19% to a new high of £87.3bn

Combined support and governance costs remains stable at around 6% of total spending

Some foundations also redistribute the funds of others, with government and co-funding contributing £70mn to grant-making by the top 300 in 2020-21.

Commenting on the report, ACF chief executive Carol Mack OBE said:

“This year’s research shows how foundations stepped up during the Covid-19 pandemic. They increased their spend on grant-making – making over £430mn in covid-related grants to charities from 2019-21. Simultaneously foundations responded by adapting their grant-making practices; collaborating with other funders, pooling funds and flexing their grant-making, all while keeping their own costs stable.”

Dr Catherine Walker commented:

“Since its inception (in its current form) in 2014, Foundation Giving Trends has provided valuable evidence that helps us understand the contribution independent money makes to the wider funding landscape, providing insightful, robust data on which foundations the wider voluntary sector, government policy-makers, and the academic community can rely.” 

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