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This blog by Debbie Pippard, Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Director of Programmes, was originally posted on ACEVO’s website.

The shockwaves that followed George Floyd’s murder, the distress and anger at continuing race inequality in the UK and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on racially minoritised communities have led foundations, like much of the third sector, to reflect as never before on what we do and how we do it.  And, for the foundation sector, how we spend our money is of course of paramount importance to us and those to whom we are accountable.  So many, probably most, funders across the UK are scrutinising their grant-making, aiming to increase their impact and extend their reach and accessibility, particularly into communities and sectors that have traditionally found it more difficult to secure funds.

The Funders for Race Equality Alliance is a peer learning, support and challenge network aiming to improve practice and increase the amount of funding going towards race equality and to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic-led organisations, currently with 43 funders in membership.  Realising that we needed a benchmark of how members’ funds were being spent in order to measure progress, one of our first initiatives, in 2019, was to develop a straightforward racial justice audit tool that funders could use to analyse their portfolios as a first step in setting targets and developing strategies for change.

Developed by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, Lloyds Foundation, Power to Change and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation in consultation with the Coalition on Race Equality, the audit asks funders to analyse a sample of grants in their portfolios using four key questions: is the grant going to an organisation led by and for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people?  Is the grant intended to benefit Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people?  What is the funding for (for example capital works, services, campaigning) and, if the grant is for race equality work, is it designed to address the root causes or the consequences of structural inequality?

Recommended reading: in September 2020, following the launch of the Home Truths report, V4CE and ACEVO wrote to the 20 largest grantmakers. We asked these funders to publish data outlining the proportion of their grants that are awarded to BAME-led organisations or projects.

Composite findings from the first cohort of 13 funders to complete the audit can be found here. Of the £122 million-worth of funding audited, 23% was for work designed to benefit Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. A further 19% of funding would benefit Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups among the wider community, but was not specifically designed to meet their needs. But when we analysed the types of organisations being funded we found very much lower levels going to the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic sector: 14% went to organisations with a mission or purpose of supporting BAME or minority communities and an even lower proportion, 6%, of funded organisations were led by representatives from the communities being served.

The numbers starkly highlight a story that we already know, that relatively little funding, even from foundations with an interest in tackling race inequality, goes to organisations led by and for racially minoritised communities. But, encouragingly, the process of auditing grant portfolios has provided a stimulus for change.  Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales introduced a 25% ring-fenced fund last August for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic-led charities; the Smallwood Trust has looked at the systemic barriers to Black and Minority Ethnic women’s groups accessing grants and has increased its funding to that sector from 7% to 21% and Barrow Cadbury Trust has set aside funds that it will use, with other foundations, to co-develop a leadership offer for the Black and Minority Ethnic criminal justice sector as part of its drive to reduce the disproportionate number of people from racially minoritised communities in the criminal justice system.

The racial justice funding audit has also catalysed wider change, with 360Giving adopting a new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) data standard to encourage funders to collect DEI data as part of standard practice, leading to a continuous cycle of improvement.

For more information about the Funders for Race Equality Alliance, get in touch via email and follow FREA on Twitter. Please note that the Alliance does not provide funds; it is a learning network for funders.


Civil Society Futures is the independent inquiry into the future of English ‘civil society’ – everything we do together that’s not the state and not for profit, from faith groups to Facebook groups, social enterprise to social media to social movements, formal and informal.

How can civil society thrive in the next ten years?  What are the challenges? What are the possibilities?  This is what Civil Society Futures is trying to find the answers to.

One year on from its launch, from 26 April and into May we’re sharing what they’ve heard so far – centred around the theme of putting power in the hands of people and communities – and they want to involve people more as the inquiry continues up to the end of 2018.

What has the Inquiry heard so far?

In the past year the Inquiry team has travelled around the country, hearing from over 1,500 people, from local communities to large organisations. What it’s heard is that:

Civil society really matters – it is a valuable and essential part of our daily lives, bringing people together, building their confidence and capability, offering a helping hand to those in crisis, delivering services, challenging injustice.

But our generation is facing new challenges.  More impersonal and more divided, we face the possibility of an ‘us and them’ future.  Frustration with local and national government.  Inequality. Racial tensions. Robots replacing humans.  Impersonal transactions replacing human relationships. Many feel like power is out of reach, have little control over the future.  People are losing trust in big institutions including charities.

Civil society needs to respond.  Its big role in the coming years is to generate a radical and creative shift which puts power in the hands of people and communities, connecting us better and humanising the way we do things.  This includes:

  • Transforming the places that matter – from local communities to the internet
  • Bringing us together – across racial and other divides
    Shaping the future of work – and find purpose in activities beyond work
  • Reimagining how charities and other groups are run – and building new kinds of organisations and movements

The Inquiry wants to reach Sector professionals people in power in charity / volunteering / related sectors (large organisations, funders, sector leaders, membership bodies), Innovators people across civil society creating radical change (both informal and formal across community, activism, social enterprise, tech, charity and more.

Find out more by reading the 1 year work in progress reports below or watching the Civil Society Futures animation.  And please tell them what you thinkleave comments, share your views on social media #civilsocietyfutures, share your story, host a discussion or write a blog.

You can also read reports on the first year’s work:

Civil Society Futures Summary Report – Work in Progress

Interim research report – end of year



It is still relatively rare for funders to collaborate both with other funders and organisations working on the frontline. Here, in an article originally published by Trust and Foundation News (the membership magazine of the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF)) , Debbie Pippard of Barrow Cadbury Trust and Cathy Stancer of Lankelly Chase join with Andy Gregg of ROTA (Race On The Agenda) and Jeremy Crook from BTEG (Black Training and Enterprise Group) to outline the co-creation and progress of a new alliance fighting ethnic inequality.

Funder collaboration is an increasingly normal part of the way foundations work. Issues as diverse as migration, mental health stigma, early intervention, women and multiple disadvantage, and child sexual exploitation are being approached by funder collaboratives of varying shapes and sizes. It still appears to be a new idea, however, to explicitly set out with the aim of co-creating priorities and actions with those working in NGOs in the field – in other words a genuinely mixed alliance. This is the story of one such alliance, one between race equality organisations and funders.

It started with a call from the Big Lottery Fund, which led to a loose alliance of funders coming together over a shared concern about ethnic inequality and social justice in late 2015. This was a diverse group working on a wide range of issues – health and wellbeing, poverty, criminal justice, arts and heritage, education, extreme disadvantage. The common thread is a concern about the stark ethnic inequalities that are apparent in systems and communities. In the criminal justice system, just to give one example, Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities are over-represented in prison: approximately 25% of prisoners are from a BAME background, compared with being only 13% of the wider population. The situation is worse for under-18s: over 40% of those in secure youth institutions are from BAME backgrounds, up significantly from 25% a decade ago. Despite decades of activism and legislation it is clear that we are not born equal: race and ethnicity still have a substantial impact on life chances and experiences.

Collective dialogue

Rather than funders deciding on a course of action, in early 2016 the funder alliance began a collective dialogue with key race equality organisations, co-creating a number of priority areas. This was and remains a complicated thing – power dynamics are at play, there are questions of who is and is not at the table. Can expectations raised by the coming together of so many funders be met? Are funders really prepared to be open about their processes and to change their practice?

We haven’t resolved these issues but we are still in dialogue, being as open as we can be with each other, building relationships and reminding ourselves of our shared purpose when things get difficult. Our work has started to crystallise around two issues, and jointly we are exploring the development of a strategic communications project, and a co-ordinated response to the government’s Race Disparity Unit (which will synthesise data on racial inequalities in public services).

Hate given licence

The work of our fledgling collaborative was given an added urgency by the Referendum last June and the spike in hate crime that followed it. It is unlikely this represented a sudden upsurge in racist sentiment. Instead it seems that the rhetoric surrounding the referendum, and the post-referendum environment, has made people with racist or xenophobic views feel more comfortable expressing these openly. The election of Donald Trump and the rise of the far right across Europe adds to the sense of a continuing trend and to the importance of renewed engagement with this issue and solidarity with those directly affected.

In our collaborative, the race equality organisations reported on a growing unease and sense of threat felt by BAME organisations and communities. Funders were keen to identify some ‘quick wins’. Together we came up with ideas, which we offer as potentially helpful to others in the funder community who want to show solidarity with those affected:

  • Talk about inequalities, race and racism. Mention it on your website. Name it as an issue. Keep it on the agenda.
  • Talk to race equality organisations to find out what has happened post-referendum. Reporting mechanisms for hate crime are fragmented so it is not always easy to get a complete picture – supporting existing or new reporting mechanisms, or funding race equality bodies, is helpful.
  • Use your convening power to bring people together to discuss the issues highlighted by the referendum and subsequent events and to consider how to respond together.
  • Support work that brings people from different communities together in meaningful shared activity or in dialogue. Under the right conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members.
  • Review your own policies and procedures for unintentional bias against BAME organisations. Increasing your permeability might help with this – consider offering a secondment to someone from a local BAME organisation or inviting a review of your procedures.
  • Few trusts and foundations are leading by example: our senior management teams and boards lack diversity. Are there steps that you can take to improve this, or to bring diverse voices into your organisation?

Reviewing our practice

As well as working collaboratively with the race equality sector, the funder group continues with its own separate cycle of meetings, at which we discuss and reflect on our own processes and learn from each other. Members have responded in a range of ways. For example, some have undertaken equalities audits or reviewed our grant-making practices. Several of us have made ourselves more open to BAME organisations through secondments. We are learning to be comfortable saying we haven’t got it right and we want to improve.

All trusts and foundations that want to increase their contribution to race equality are very welcome to join the funder alliance, the funder/race equality sector collaborative or both. We don’t have all the answers but we think working in the spirit of genuine partnership, with all the joys and challenges it brings, is the right thing to do.

For more information contact Cathy Stancer or Debbie Pippard


Ariadne is a European peer-to-peer network of more than 500 funders and philanthropists who support social change and human rights. Ariadne helps those using private resources for public good achieve more together than they can alone by linking them to other funders and providing practical tools of support.    


Ariadne has launched a new forecast which aims to help grant makers and civil society to discover trends and  forward plan.  The forecast was put together with input from over 140 grant-makers and philanthropy experts.


Social change grant-makers say that the top issues shaping their world this year include migration and the closing space for Civil Society – this forecast explains why. Forecasters focus on what we need to watch out for and what questions we should be asking such as: How are funders adapting to blended finances and austerity? Who are the emerging stakeholders in the field, and what wildcards might be lurking?


You can read the forecast here, including a global assessment and reports from funders in France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.


ACF has today launched a new research publication detailing the size, shape and trajectory of foundation giving in the UK. Foundation Giving Trends 2014, funded by Pears Foundation and produced by ACF in collaboration with the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy at Cass Business School, will build on Professor Cathy Pharoah’s established work on financial trends among foundations and includes ACF member perspectives.


The report was launched with a discussion of key findings and a practitioner perspective and is the first edition of a new series of research briefings.  Building on the track record of its companion ‘Family Foundation Giving Trends’ the briefings will reveal key data about the vast majority of trust and foundation giving in the UK.  Although there are roughly 10,000 foundations in the UK the top 300 account for 90% of the value of all their giving.


The report reveals that foundation giving to charitable causes grew by £271 million, or 10%, whilst income fell by the same amount. This “unprecedented finding” highlights the importance of foundation assets, which have enabled several larger foundations to fund ‘counter-cyclically’ through a time of elevated need and reduced government expenditure. However, such spending decisions have been made at a time of low investment returns, intensifying the pressure on trustees to balance today’s pressing issues with maintaining their spending power for future generations.