Skip to main content
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.


This blog on racial justice in the VCS comes from Jeremy Crook OBE, Chief Executive of BTEG.  It was planned as one of our 2020 centenary blogs.  December’s Covid-related events pushed it into January – but it’s much too good to miss. 

The Trust has had a strong involvement in racial justice issues over many decades.  But this is a challenge to our own governance and management, and we are very aware that our board and senior management team are not sufficiently racially diverse.  In a majority family governed foundation, racial diversity is an issue, and working with a  small staff team we can only make new appointments when posts become vacant.  The board has not been monochrome over the past five years and  we are committed to increasing our Black and Minority Ethnic membership in the coming year.  This has been written into our performance objectives as a Chair and a Chief Executive and we are currently working on it.
Erica Cadbury and Sara Llewellin

The Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG) was set up 30 years ago. We focus on helping children and young people succeed in education, employment and minimising their involvement in the criminal justice system. As one of the longest serving chief executives of a national charity, I want to reflect on how the conversation on race equality has changed in the voluntary and community sector (VCS).

I joined the VCS in the early 1980’s by volunteering for the Afro-Caribbean Youth Council, a charity in Walsall. The driver for its creation was social exclusion of black youth from mainstream organisations, school exclusions, lower educational attainment, youth unemployment, access to housing and police racism.

Race equality always felt like a peripheral issue in the VCS and was only supported by a handful of charitable trusts. The VCS was content to support race inequality initiatives if it did not reduce the resources available to the mainstream sector.

Last year an explosion of global anger was ignited by the killing of George Floyd in broad daylight on a public street by a group of police officers. Many parts of the world were awakened to how people of African origin are treated by the police, at work, on the streets, in the media, in the justice and political systems. The Black Lives Matter movement gave voice to more black people, many of whom have suffered in silence and/or been under-valued in the workplace for many years.

Reinvigorated scrutiny of the VCS highlighted that the presence of black and Asian people at senior levels in the VCS is extremely poor. There are some black and Asian individuals leading large charities and charitable trusts but, overall, their representation at senior levels is inadequate. According to ACEVO only 3% of charity CEOs were from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (2017).

It has also brought into focus what it means to be anti-racist in the VCS. Unacceptably, we still find race equality conversations in the VCS taking place without any black or Asian people present.

In the VCS the conversation shifted to discussions about the distribution of opportunities, the distribution of resources and the control of those resources. Whilst this is not the first time these issues had been considered it did feel for the first time that there was a cross-sector impetus, and more people are demanding more from their own leaders and organisations.

For much of the last thirty years [some] national VCS leaders engaged in discussions about racial inequalities but did not improve their own organisational performance. Equalities policies were adopted but there was no change in the ethnicity of those making decisions.

Young black, Asian and white people have demonstrated for change and are rightly rejecting tokenistic change in the VCS. It has been difficult, traumatic and uncomfortable, but it has provided a sense of hope that there will be change.

The issue of institutional racism has re-emerged with the usual denials that it exists in many large organisations. Structurally it would be easy to say that race equality never really featured in the core policy conversations within the VCS and, at best, it was a marginal issue often characterised with tokenistic gestures, e.g., the lone black or Asian individual employed to deliver the time limited ‘ethnic minority’ project.

In 2020 black and Asian colleagues in the VCS sector have demanded change. I think there are white leaders in the VCS that are prepared to listen and change their behaviour. They are prepared to use their influence and levers to tackle racial inequality. But there are leaders in large or influential organisations who are oblivious to the need for any change in the VCS. We all need to challenge and support these leaders to do better.

The conversation in some parts of the VCS has not changed – race equality is still not discussed. In other parts of the VCS what has changed is that the treatment of black people has been elevated up the management agenda. However, there is a risk that many white colleagues and leaders in the VCS view this as a moment and not the start of a transformation process.

Charitable trusts have also come under pressure to look at themselves and the equity of grant making decisions. Some have embraced this and have had a serious look at their organisation cultures, ethnic representation, and their relationship with black, Asian and minority ethnic organisations. Charitable trusts also have the lever of their grant making and must use this to drive change in the charities they support.

Government too has its procurement lever but has been reluctant to drive change. Large charities receive millions of pounds per year to provide public services and they should be held to account for bringing about change. For too long they have been dismissive of the need to reflect the ethnic diversity of their service users within their hierarchy. All too often black and Asian organisations have been excluded from the real decision making.

Today more importance is being placed on intersectional considerations – black and Asian individuals want to be respected and treated fairly for all their characteristics and not only in relation to ethnicity and colour. Black and Asian communities are demanding that they are not treated as a one-dimensional monolithic group.

We must be careful not to aid an inclination among leaders in the VCS to state the race equality box has been ticked now – “we’ve reviewed our policies so let’s move on now”.

Jeremy Crook OBE