Skip to main content

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.

Increasingly, foundations are showing an interest in systems change work as a means of achieving greater impact when tackling intractable issues. In this new report ‘Funding for systems change: The story of Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Transition to Adulthood Campaign’, IVAR and Barrow Cadbury Trust explore the conditions needed for this model of working.

In this blog, Ben Cairns, Director at IVAR and Sara Llewellin, Chief Executive at Barrow Cadbury Trust, offer their reflections for others to sense check whether they have – or even want to develop – those conditions.

A white person with short grey hair and a beard, wearing a navy blue shirt and glasses


Increasingly, foundations are showing an interest in systems change work as a means of achieving greater impact when tackling intractable issues. From our point of view this is to be welcomed. In this report, IVAR and BCT have attempted to explore the conditions needed for this model of working. We offer this for others to sense check whether they have – or even want to develop – those conditions.

Telling the story of Transition to Adulthood (T2A) – Barrow Cadbury Trust’s collaborative criminal justice campaign making the case to policy makers, practitioners and sentencers for a distinct approach for young adults (18 to 25-year-olds) – presented an opportunity to press pause, and do a deep dive. It also felt like a good fit with our wider work on facilitating shifts towards more open and trusting grant-making.

As researchers, the story makes a compelling case for funders to be active in systems change. It might be different and difficult, but the gains can be profound and significant. But there is also much that may alarm those interested. The field expertise required to work in this way; the uncertainty and unpredictability around success; the open-ended nature of the commitment; the complexity of the collaboration – most or all of these are a far cry from traditional grant programmes. It reminds us that systems change isn’t for the faint-hearted, for people in a hurry, or for people who prefer order and certainty of outcome. It’s messy, it’s erratic, and you’re never really sure what’s just around the comer.

Our intention, though, is not just to deter or discourage. Trusts and foundations – with their wealth of assets and their independence – are uniquely placed to support systems change They have the money, the time, and the patience. They can afford to take risks, to shift power, to disrupt. To play a leading role, like Barrow Cadbury Trust, or to be a patient cheerleader. All of these choices – to do it well and thoroughly – are in their gift.

A white person with short light brown hair wearing glasses, a cobalt blue top, and a necklace


At Barrow Cadbury Trust we see ourselves as actors in civil society, not just supporters of it. We are rooted in the social justice values of Quakerism, although of all faiths and none. We work purposefully to tackle the root causes as well as manifestations of injustice, alongside coalitions and ecologies of others who share our desire for change.

However, working like this demands a number of conditions which are significantly different to those which many foundations can provide. By setting them out here we hope they will prove useful to others either considering or embarking on this kind of work for the first time. The most important of these is a long time horizon: real systemic or structural change takes many different hands working together over a long period.

Rest assured, we do not think that this is the ‘right’ or the ‘better’ way. It’s a way and it’s our way but there are many ways to assist changemakers and this is just one of them. What matters is that we each do deliberately and consistently what we can do best.

This is a joint blog being co-hosted on the Barrow Cadbury Trust and IVAR websites.

This year is our centenary.  For the last hundred years our work has reflected the social and political challenges of the time.  In the early days of the trust much of our work focused on the health and social needs of early 20th century Birmingham.  Later our Quaker heritage led us to be involved in initiatives to create a more inclusive and peaceful society.  Now we work with many others for greater social justice and equality in the fields of gender, economic, racial and criminal justice.   However although times have changed, each  generation of trustees has been guided by a  commitment to social integration and the protection of engaged democracy.

In the last year as a board we have also been reflecting on our responsibilities as trustees of a family philanthropic endowment.  We have questioned how we exercise our mandate and fulfil our role in the public domain when our endowment is derived from private wealth and as charity trustees, we are unelected.

We are still governed by a largely family board, descendants of the founders, Barrow and Geraldine Southall Cadbury, but are supported by non-family trustees.  We recognise that board membership is both a privilege and a service and have taken steps to minimise the impact of that privilege.

Firstly, we recognise that this is not primarily ‘our’ money.  It is held in trust for the public benefit and we must approach how we use it with care and humility, consulting and learning from our stakeholders and partners every inch of the way.

Secondly, the staff and trustee board endeavour to minimise the negative power imbalance in our relationships with all of our partners.  We hope, as our stakeholders and partners, you’ll let us know when we fall short.

Thirdly we are committed to enhancing our skills as trustees so that our decision making is informed and responsible.   Our non-family trustees augment our knowledge base and our perspectives. We also now ask family members who want to join the board to gain experience by serving a governance apprenticeship in a front-line charity.

Most importantly though, we consider ourselves to be an integral part of civil society.  We believe we add value as actors, not just as observers or supporters, but in our own right, as all citizens are entitled to.

Over the past few months, as we prepared for the centenary, we reflected with great care on our long term goals and as trustees took the decision to protect the long term future of the endowment.  In order to do this, we will have to reduce our spending from our capital  to ensure that we have an adequate income in the future.  We will do this gradually over our next five year strategic period.  We have started to deliver several programmes now for other funding bodies, and we hope to develop this approach further.

As we embark on a new decade, we’ve also been impacted afresh by the surge of younger people renaming the climate crisis as an emergency.  The Quaker activist John Woolman wrote presciently in the 18th century “the produce of the earth is a gift from our gracious creator to the inhabitants and to impoverish the earth now to support outward greatness appears to be an injury to the succeeding age”.  In this spirit, last year we became founding signatories to the Funder Commitment on Climate Change and will be working over the coming months to translate that commitment to more action.

And in the midst of political turbulence and social division, I would like to draw your attention to the Decade of Reconnection, orchestrated by a number of our partners and others.  Launching officially in the Spring, its purpose is to make deliberate efforts – all of us – to reach out respectfully to those who do not share our views.  Let us reach out more and listen harder in the interests of a better future.

This blog is the first in a year-long series, drawing on ambitious and clear-sighted thinking and activities from a broad range of our partners, stakeholders and grantees – past and present.  We are also delighted to launch our new animation ‘hot off the press’ which we hope captures how we arrived at this place, and very importantly where we’d like to be in another hundred years.

Erica Cadbury
Chair, Barrow Cadbury Trust





Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, spoke in early November at an LSE event hosted by the International Inequalities Institute.  Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Living Wage intern, Sian Williams, went along to hear his thoughts on how he sees the future of modern philanthropy

Are you sitting comfortably? If so, then your foundation might need to rethink its approach to philanthropy. This was the message from President of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker, as he addressed the audience at LSE’s evening event ‘Investing in Equality: the role of capital and justice in addressing inequality’. The Ford Foundation is one of the largest and most influential foundations in the US, and has been committed to advancing human welfare and reducing inequality for more than 80 years.

Uncomfortable Truths: The New Gospel of Wealth

Walker explained that modern philanthropy has largely been motivated by generosity. He referred to American industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s 1889 essay ‘The Gospel of Wealth’, which has had a considerable influence on modern philanthropy. Carnegie felt that it was the moral duty of the wealthy to redistribute their surplus wealth in a responsible and generous manner.

However, Walker argued that generosity is not enough, and today’s philanthropy must instead be driven by the quest for justice. Generosity, he argued, allows those who are privileged to remain comfortable in their giving, and insulated from some of the uncomfortable truths in society. Justice-driven philanthropy on the other hand requires the privileged to become a little uncomfortable. It involves tackling structural inequality and bringing about systemic change. This is what Walker calls ‘The New Gospel of Wealth’. This approach was in part inspired by Martin Luther King Junior’s comment that“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”

Changing the Narrative

Walker also stressed the importance of looking critically at the culture, structures and practices within our own institutions. Foundations excel at the rhetoric of change and progress but are often less good at putting this into practice in their own organisations. For example, when it comes to hiring practices, there are significant hurdles to overcome around diversity and the inclusion of individuals with ‘authentic knowledge’ that comes from having lived experience. He believes it is important to acknowledge our own privilege and biases, and reflect on where our institutions fall short.

Despite highlighting the many injustices which make philanthropy necessary, Walker remains positive about the future. He warned against promoting a narrative of hopelessness which renders people vulnerable and insecure. Instead he proposed challenging prevailing narratives, empowering communities and giving voice to the disadvantaged. To do this foundations must continue to invest in the three I’s: individuals, institutions and ideas. Crucially, we should not shy away from the uncomfortable truths in society, at the same time as addressing the underlying causes of inequality.






Debbie Pippard, Head of Programmes at Barrow Cadbury Trust, asks what can be done to support a strong and healthy civil society both here and overseas.

The Barrow Cadbury Trust was set up by husband and wife, Barrow and Geraldine Cadbury, almost 100 years ago.  We consider ourselves to be part of, as well as funders of, civil society and we still follow the old Quaker imperative (since adopted widely by others) of ‘speaking truth to power’.  That’s something we can do more or less with impunity in the UK, but this is not of course the case in all areas of the globe.

And because we see ourselves as very much an active player and partner in civil society, CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) approached the Trust to be a partner in its 2017 party conference fringe events around the issue of what has come to be known as the ‘shrinking space for civil society’ – the increasing trend of governments around the world to pass regressive laws that affect freedom of association, and repress the ability of people to speak up on important issues of civil liberty.

Bad news for civil liberties

The figures speak for themselves but are shocking nonetheless.  More than 120 laws constraining freedom of association and assembly have been proposed and enacted in 60 countries since 2012 – that’s a huge blow to individual and community rights and impedes good governance and the development of healthy societies where everyone has a chance to achieve their potential.

Here in the UK of course we have a rich heritage of charities and community organisations – and that rich heritage has had a vital part to play in the creation of the liberal democracy in which we live.  Our civil society – both its existence and its governance – is admired across the globe, not only by activists struggling in repressive regimes, but by those much closer to home in Europe.

The reaction of colleagues in countries we respect such as the Netherlands and the Nordic countries of Scandinavia to changes in UK law and regulation such as the Lobbying Act and the proposed Anti-advocacy Clause are surprise and bewilderment.  Of course the changes proposed for charities look relatively trivial compared to some of the changes we’ve seen in other countries such as Hungary.  But they undermine a long history of communities of citizens linked by common interests and collective activity and the comfort offered to those seeking to suppress opposition in parts of the world where speaking up comes at a great price.  The UK is seen as a world leader in supporting freedom of speech and protecting human rights – it’s hard to overestimate the impact that even small steps to limit freedoms of civil society has in other countries where political leaders seek to repress opposition.

Using international development to bolster civil society

Many on the international stage look to the UK as an example of best practice in charity law and governance, and see the benefits of a “thick layer” of civil society (to quote our colleague Jordi Vaquer from the Open Society Foundation).  It’s easy to take our own attitudes and traditions for granted and forget how influential the charity sector is in the UK.  That’s why in the party conference events with CAF we took as our theme the exploration of ‘international development as an example of the UK’s soft power’.

The UK can influence global behaviour and help set the conditions for positive social change by consciously setting an example and using our resources and experience to support the development of a strong civil society in countries with which we have relationships. The Government’s continuing commitment to the 0.7% aid target is very welcome.  We’d like to see a good part of those funds used to support the growth and maintenance of civil society. Soft power – projecting values through influence, ideas and the power of persuasion – is a powerful tool for influence overseas. By using our funds wisely, and by setting an example at home, we can use our heritage of a strong civil society to influence the change we’d like to see.

Debbie Pippard


Barrow Cadbury Trust’s contribution towards the costs of the fringe events came from the Barrow Cadbury Fund.

Read about CAF’s Groundwork for Global Giving campaign

Read NPC’s ‘The Shared Society needs a Strong Civil Society’

Find out about work on this issue co-ordinated by the European Foundation Centre


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].

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.