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Largest foundations see income fall but increase grant-making 10%

Largest foundations see income fall but increase grant-making 10%

Most of the UK’s top 300 independent charitable foundations have increased their grant-making despite the majority seeing their income and/or assets fall, according to the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF).

According to ACF’s annual research on giving, income and assets among the top 300 largest foundations. Foundation Giving Trends 2019 found that total giving in 2017/18 was £2.9bn, down on the previous year’s £3.3bn. However, the overall trend showed a real increase of 9.9% in grant-making following adjustments made for the Wellcome Trust (whose overall spending is set to increase but whose grants fell in that year).

The research, which is supported by Pears Foundation and authored by Professor Cathy Pharoah and Dr Catherine Walker, found that 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.

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.”

Professor Cathy Pharoah also commented on the report, saying:

“This year’s findings demonstrate how individual foundations address the challenges of an increasingly complex funding environment, and demonstrate the importance of digging deeper into the headline trends to see the stories that lie beneath. Although overall giving continues to increase, it is notable that many foundations saw reductions in their income or assets which may be a driver for decision-making in future years.”


Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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