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The annual Foundation Practice Rating (FPR) report into the performance of charitable foundations is now available. Download the report here.

The Foundation Practice Rating (FPR) is an objective assessment of UK-based charitable grant-making foundations. It looks at foundations ’practices in three important and interlinked domains of practice: diversity, accountability and transparency.

The report has found continuing improvement in the sector, with more organisations scoring high scores across the board and fewer recording the lowest marks. Giving Evidence – the researchers who compiled the report, gave a hundred foundations ratings from A to D on each one’s diversity, accountability and transparency, with eleven scoring A overall (up from seven in 2022).

Conversely, fourteen foundations were rated D overall with nine being given the bottom rating in all three categories, compared with twenty-three and seventeen in the previous year.

Diversity was the domain where performance was weakest although, again, significant improvements have been made in the past twelve months.

The FPR was initiated in 2021 by Friends Provident Foundation, and is funded by a group of thirteen UK grant-making foundations. The ‘Funders Group ’this year were: Friends Provident Foundation; Barrow Cadbury Trust; The Blagrave Trust; Esmée Fairbairn Foundation; John Ellerman Foundation; Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust; Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust; Lankelly Chase Foundation; Paul Hamlyn Foundation; Power to Change; The Indigo Trust; City Bridge Foundation; and John Lyon’s Charity.

In response to the FPR, emerged a campaign called The Three Commitments which encourages grant-making trusts and foundations to enhance their practices in the important key areas of diversity, accountability, and transparency.

The Three Commitments campaign enables foundations to lead by example and inspire positive change within the grant-making sector by committing to three changes they would like to make.

Barrow Cadbury Trust is very pleased to be part of the funders collaboration – The Corston Independent Funders’ Coalition (CIFC) – which has recently submitted its response to a consultation on Imposition of community and custodial sentences guidelines.

The CIFC believes that all women should have access to justice in the criminal justice system – women already involved in the system as well as those at risk – and that women’s specific needs must be met:

  • at each point of contact with the criminal justice system, as opposed to being shoe-horned into a system that does not account for their specific gendered needs
  • through trauma responsive ways of working which address the underlying vulnerabilities and disadvantages that the vast majority of women in the criminal justice system experience, as
    well as nurturing their strengths.

In line with Baroness Corston’s vision set out in the Corston Report, the CIFC seeks to enable systemic change in how women experience the justice system including through supporting women-centred, holistic, and trauma-responsive approaches to divert them away from crime. Much of the way the member organisations fund, and work more widely, therefore is shaped by systems thinking. The group understands that the issues it is seeking to address are complex, that causes and consequences are interconnected, and that the power to create change is spread across the system. This work therefore requires partnering, collaboration and co-production with all actors, particularly those with lived experience of the criminal justice system, to find solutions that will alter the underlying structures and supporting mechanisms which make the system operate in a particular way. And it is this commitment and approach that it brings to the table.

The CIFC is a diverse group of funders with different charitable objectives, interests, and institutional frameworks. Opportunities for members to engage are structured around the three ways in which the Coalition seeks to make a difference – networking and sharing information and learning about policy, practice and grant-making, collaborative funding, and influencing policy and practice.

The Foundation Practice Rating (FPR) has published the results of its second year of assessment of UK foundations.  Foundation Practice Rating (FPR) is a project supported by thirteen charitable foundations, (one of which is Barrow Cadbury Trust).  Led by Friends Provident Foundation the project aims to increase and improve practice on accountability, transparency and diversity in the sector and to provide tools to make this happen.

One hundred trusts and foundations in the UK drawn from the largest 300 in the Association of Charitable Foundations’ Giving Trends 2019 and all community foundations, were rated from A to D on accountability, transparency and diversity practice represented in information available to grant-seekers or the public.

The FPR is a crucial tool for grant-making foundations to understand our strengths and weakness in reporting on diversity, accountability and transparency, and helps to identify areas for improvement. It annually assesses foundations’ practices. The findings of this second year report show that while some foundations are making great strides in these areas, there is still work to be done to increase transparency, improve diversity, and to ensure we are accountable.

Barrow Cadbury Trust is pleased to see our rating has improved since the first year’s report.  We are currently overhauling our website and one of our priorities is to make sure we are communicating on those three areas, putting front and centre how thinking about and being committed to diversity is an integral part of how we work, alongside being transparent in how and what we fund, as well as accountable.  The new website, which we hope will be completed in the autumn, will contain more information on the three areas and be easier to navigate.  We hope it will raise our rating further.

The FPR encourages foundations to engage in regular self-reflection and analysis of practices, to be transparent about diversity, accountability and transparency practices, and to seek feedback from stakeholders. Foundations have also been sharing best practices and learning from each other’s experiences.

The FPR is an important step towards greater diversity, accountability, and transparency in the foundation sector. By working together, foundations can help build public trust and ensure that resources are being used in the most effective and impactful way.  Its approach is unique in the foundation sector because of the mandatory inclusion of foundations in the sample, setting it apart from other initiatives where foundations must opt in. In this way the FPR aligns with other sectors such as education and business which have their own rating systems.

How does the FPR work?

The FPR assigns a rating of A, B, C or D to each of the three ‘pillars’ of diversity, accountability and transparency, and an overall rating is also given. Giving Evidence, a philanthropy research consultancy, undertook the research process.

The sample included:

  • the 13 foundations/partners, including Barrow Cadbury Trust, funding this work;
  • the five largest UK foundations by giving budget; and
  • a random sample of community foundations and charitable foundations, as listed in the ACF’s ‘Giving Trends report 2021’. That latter includes only the top 300 largest UK charitable grant-making foundations.

Foundations were assessed using over 90 questions relating to criteria developed through a mix of existing standards, those suggested by charities through a consultation in 2021 and those developed through the research process.

All trusts were sent their scores to check for accuracy in November/ December 2022; we were allowed three weeks to raise any questions, corrections, or concerns.  A complex but transparent system of exemptions was applied to ensure the most accurate application of criteria to the many ways foundations work.

Overall report findings

  • Seven foundations received an A rating overall, an improvement over the previous year when only three foundations received this rating. Those foundations are diverse in size and structure. They include a community foundation (Oxfordshire Community Foundation), a large foundation (Wellcome Trust), and smaller endowed foundations (Blagrave Trust). The other foundations who got an A are: Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, John Ellerman Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Walcot Educational Foundation.
  • Transparency was the best-performing pillar, with 57 foundations, including Barrow Cadbury Trust, receiving an A.
  • No foundation received an A for Diversity with almost half (48%) receiving the lowest rating of D.

Foundation websites

One finding was that foundation websites played a crucial role in communicating foundations’ mission, with information typically published about funding priorities, eligibility criteria, and information about what we have funded.  Disappointingly, the report found that 22 foundations in the sample had no website and for those which did have websites many were difficult to navigate and lacked a  search function, making it hard to find information quickly and easily.  And the cluttered design of some websites made the search process challenging.  Some websites only shared limited information, while others were difficult to find on the internet. Surprisingly, the website of one of the five largest foundations (by giving budget) was not found on Google and was only discovered by using a different search engine.


Overall, the report illustrates the need for foundations to improve their communications in relation to diversity, accountability and transparency. Read a copy of the report.

The FPR has been positively received by foundations and has the potential to drive positive change in the sector. The FPR website provides resources to guide and support foundations in improving their practices.

Twitter: @FPracticeRating
Contact Danielle Walker Palmour to join the funding group. Email:[email protected]


At our October board meeting trustee Steven Skakel stepped down after eight years.

The board and staff team at BCT want to thank Steven for his very committed service over those years.

Steven was one of our non-family trustees, recruited in particular for his knowledge of Birmingham. As the Trust does not have a base in Birmingham but still has significant historic ties to the city, having a trustee ‘on the ground’ there is important to us.  Steven was always willing to attend events of our partners in the region and offer his support. He also worked with our Director of Programmes on strategic relationships in the city.

Steven was wholly committed to the good governance of the Barrow Cadbury Trust and served as our Lead Trustee on risk for the past six years, both helping and challenging the Executive Team in the continuous updating of our Risk Register.

With an almost unbroken attendance record, Steven was always well-prepared and thoughtful, very usefully bringing his perspectives from many years in the corporate sector, when most of our trustees are in the third or public sectors.  He truly understood the balance a board should strike between support and challenge of the executive and we will miss him greatly.

Erica Cadbury
Chair of Trustees

Over 40 funders have signed a pledge for open and trusting grant-making, committing to be #FlexibleFunders for the organisations they support.

A new campaign has been launched today by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR), in collaboration with London Funders and a small group of UK foundations and charities. They are calling on funders to adopt simpler, more flexible practices that make life easier for those they fund, in light of the ongoing uncertainty caused by Covid-19. Their ambition is to see these commitments extend beyond the crisis: to become standard practice in the sector.

They are asking funders to commit to being more open and trusting by:

  • Making grants in a way that reflects the realities facing VCSE and other civil society organisations now and for the foreseeable future.
  • Managing grants in a way that reflects their confidence in and respect for the organisations they fund.

These two goals provide the framework for eight, actionable commitments.

Why now?

Over the last decade there has been much talk of funders – particularly trusts and foundations – trying to become less burdensome, more straightforward and quicker in their dealings with applicants and grantees. Then, over a few short weeks in March 2020, some funders overhauled their processes, dismantling onerous reporting structures and proactively offering a range of financial and flexible support.

Building on 20 years of researching, advocating for and supporting progressive funder practices[1], IVAR convened a group of funders and charities to look at how the best of these behaviours could be nurtured into the future.

The Eight Commitments

1.       Don’t waste time – funders will be open, transparent and clear about all of their priorities, requirements and exclusions.

2.       Ask relevant questions – funders will test their application forms to ensure clarity, relevance and avoid repetition, only collecting information that genuinely informs a funding decision.

3.       Accept risk – funders will clearly explain how risk is assessed and be realistic about how much assurance applicants can provide.

4.       Act with urgency – funders will aim to make decisions as quickly as possible by publishing and sticking to timeframes to ensure they work at a pace that meets the needs of applicants.

5.       Be open – funders will provide feedback, including reasons for rejections. They will analyse and share relevant data, including publishing success rates.

6.       Enable flexibility – funders will aim to give unrestricted funding; where they can’t (or are a specialist funder), they will ensure their funding is as flexible as possible.

7.       Communicate with purpose – a funders contact is positive and purposeful. They will be realistic about their time commitments.

8.       Be proportionate – funders will ensure that their formal reporting requirements are well understood, proportionate and meaningful.

This pledge is built on the stand by the sector statement, led by London Funders, which over 400 funders signed – in recognition of the impact that the Covid-19 outbreak continues to have on civil society groups, and to provide assurance that they stand with the sector at this time.

For funders who sign up to the eight commitments, IVAR is creating a community for dialogue, debate and challenge on the details of day-to-day practice, involving both funders and charities.

The pledge complements other work aiming to influence change – both in funder practice and improving relationships between charities and funders, such as ACF’s Stronger Foundations initiative. IVAR will continue to collaborate with ACF and others active in this space to ensure work is complementary.

Over 40 independent funders across the four nations of the UK have formed the first wave of foundations signed up to open and trusting grant-making on launch, including Corra Foundation, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.

IVAR, their partners and networks are calling for more funders to sign up to open and trusting grant-making. This means adopting the eight commitments, sharing how they will bring them to life, and joining a community of practice with other funders and charities to adapt and improve practice together.

IVAR invites both funders and those they fund to join them in championing these commitments and engaging with the campaign as it progresses, using #FlexibleFunders and tagging @IVAR_UK.












Barrow Cadbury Trust is very pleased to announce its new trustee, Dr Omar Khan.  Currently Director at TASO (Transforming Access & Student Outcomes in Higher Education), which he joined in June 2020, he was previously Director at race equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust – a role he had been in since 2014. As Director of the Runnymede Trust, Omar grew the organisation and increased its profile. Prior to this, Omar was Head of Policy at the Runnymede Trust and led its financial inclusion programme.

Omar holds several advisory positions, including chair of Olmec – a BME-led social enterprise championing race equality through economic and social justice, chair of the Ethnicity Strand Advisory Group to Understanding Society, chair of the advisory group of the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at the University of Manchester, Commissioner on the Financial Inclusion Commission and a member of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) and 2014 REF assessment. Omar was previously a Governor at the University of East London and a 2012 Clore Social Leadership Fellow.


Almost two-thirds of the top 300 foundations increased their grant-making in real-terms in 2017/18. However, the majority of those increasing their grant-making also experienced a fall in their income, assets, or both, according to new research published by the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF).

Total giving by the top 300 foundations in 2017/18 was £2.9bn. This was down on the previous year due to a drop in giving by the UK’s largest grant-maker, Wellcome Trust (whose overall spending is set to increase but whose grants fell in that year). However, after adjusting for the Wellcome Trust, the overall trend showed a real increase of 9.9% in grant-making.

Further analysis shows growth in both family and corporate foundation giving in 2017/18. Family foundation giving grew by 4%, when Wellcome Trust is excluded, and corporate foundation giving grew by 2.2%, when a large one-off transfer of funds is excluded.

The findings come from Foundation Giving Trends 2019, the latest edition of the annual report on the finances and funding of the top 300 UK independent philanthropically-funded charitable foundations by grant-making. The research is carried out by Cathy Pharoah, Visiting Professor at the Centre for Charitable Giving at Cass Business School, and Dr Catherine Walker of The Researchery. The research is supported by Pears Foundation.

In this year’s special feature, ACF takes look at the challenges it sees foundations meeting in the current context, including climate change, diversity, and transparency.

Commenting on the report, ACF Chief Executive Carol Mack said:

“This year’s research highlights foundations’ ability to respond to the needs of those they fund, even when their own fortunes are turbulent. In particular, our decision to focus this year’s special feature on trends beyond the numbers has given space to consider the external factors affecting foundations, from the question of board diversity to the urgent challenge of addressing the climate crisis.

 Foundation Giving Trends is a valuable contribution to our understanding of foundations and the funding environment, and relevant to the wider voluntary sector, government policymakers, and the academic community. Producing such an annual analysis allows us to monitor trends that inevitably will have knock-on effects for the wider foundation sector and beyond.” 











Sara Llewellin, the Chief Executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust, has been awarded the EFC Compass Prize at the 30th EFC AGA and Conference in Paris last week. This is the fifth ever prize awarded since its launch ten years ago and Sara is the first woman to receive this recognition.

Sara, a member for many years of the EFC’s Management Committee, Governing Council and various networks and working groups, has been recognised for her prominent work not just for Barrow Cadbury Trust, but for the EFC and wider philanthropic sector in Europe. According to the EFC: “Sara embodies the qualities and values that are at the root of the organisation she leads: speaking truth to power and striving for collaboration, engagement, independence and innovation and could not be a more deserving recipient of the award”.

After being presented the award by Massimo Lapucci, the EFC’s Chair, Sara emphasised that this award was not only a recognition of her work, but recognition of the effort and toil of everyone she has worked with.  She went on to pay tribute to all of the women who had come before her in the EFC community, for laying the groundwork, and for helping her in her early years.  This award was for them she said, and it demonstrated that ”the sisterhood is powerful!”.

The EFC Compass Prize recognises those who have made outstanding contributions to, and ongoing support for, the development of the European philanthropic sector; the pioneers, navigators and visionaries who have broken the mould of European philanthropy, both through their relationship with the EFC as well as with their peers. Read more about the Compass Prize and previous recipients.

During the Annual General Assembly Sara was also unanimously elected as Vice Chair of the EFC , replacing the outgoing Klaus Wehmeier, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Körber-Stiftung.

The Trust is very sad indeed to report that our Chair, Helen Cadbury, died from cancer on Friday, in York where she lived with her family.

Helen was a sparkling person of many talents.  An actor, an acclaimed crime fiction writer, a poet, a teacher in schools and prisons, a partner, a mother, an active Quaker and a steadfast champion of philanthropy and social justice.

We will be posting a fuller obituary in due course and meanwhile thank people for their messages of condolence.

Anna Southall will step in as our Interim Chair while the board considers the issue of succession.

During the closing plenary of the European Foundations Centre’s 2017 Annual General Assembly and Conference on Friday 2 June, EFC Chair Ewa Kulik-Bielińska announced the Warsaw Declaration to delegates concerning a new Philanthropic Alliance for Solidarity and Democracy in Europe:

EFC Warsaw Declaration

Philanthropic Alliance for Solidarity and Democracy in Europe

Today, in Warsaw, at the 28th EFC conference ‘Courage to re-embrace solidarity in Europe’, a diverse group of foundations concerned with the state of democracy in Europe came together to launch the Alliance.

“Civil society across Europe is currently experiencing increasing infringements on its ability to operate independently, resulting in a negative impact on democracy, diversity, equality and freedom. Non-governmental and academic institutions and the free media are being constrained by governments, and civil society actors are attacked, discredited and presented as public enemies.

The Philanthropic Alliance for Solidarity and Democracy in Europe is concerned both with the operating environment for civil society and, more broadly, with the urgency to respond to the violation of democratic values such as human dignity, freedom, justice, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Therefore, we commit to pooling together broad-based, diverse philanthropic resources and establishing a Solidarity Fund to support initiatives aimed at strengthening civil society actors and safeguarding democratic values in Europe.

Initiating this alliance in Poland – the cradle of the Solidarity movement in Europe – demonstrates the ability of the European and international philanthropic community to join forces to bolster solidarity across Europe.

We believe that as a philanthropic community we must send a firm collective message that democracy prevails and can only be realised by securing a strong, independent and enabled civil society. As organisations that use private funds for public good we have a critical role to play in calling on European public institutions to develop robust mechanisms to protect, defend and promote these fundamental freedoms.

Our times call urgently for courage to stand together and act for democracy and solidarity in Europe and around the world.

If you would like to get involved with the Alliance contact EFC Chief Executive, Gerry Salole [email protected].