Independent funders don’t collaborate enough and are unfit for purpose, according to a recent report and a blog by Hayman of the Social Investment Consultancy. Third Sector’s Susannah Birkwood asks if this criticism is well founded.
There are 10,000 grant-making trusts and foundations in England and Wales, and the latest annual figures show the biggest 300 account for 90 per cent of all their giving, which amounted to £2.4bn out of total private giving of £17.5bn. Despite its size, it’s a sector that is generally averse to publicity.
Last month, however, two publications threw an unaccustomed spotlight on foundations. The first was Supporting Social Change: A New Funding Ecology, a report by the community interest company Collaborate, commissioned by the Big Lottery Fund and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Its main argument was that independent funders were inhibiting the systemic change of social support in the UK by failing to collaborate as effectively as they might.
The second, in far more outspoken language, was a blog by Jake Hayman, chief executive of the Social Investment Consultancy and a trustee of the 69th-biggest foundation, Lankelly Chase, who asserted that foundations were bad at their jobs and not fit for purpose, and that he was “done” with them.
A day later he posted a second blog saying that the first had been obnoxious. “For 10 years I watched people smarter than me saying the same thing calmly and eloquently and not getting heard, so I pushed it,” he wrote. “I apologise that people trying to do the right thing felt attacked… I’ve had a lot of nice responses, a lot of respectful disagreement and some hideous bile that made me cry. Can we call it evens?”
The two publications have given a fresh impetus to the debate about the purpose of foundations in the current funding environment, in which income from the state is harder to come by and new ways are being sought to tackle persistent social problems. Here we summarise Hayman’s blog and reactions to it, and ask the leaders of three well-known foundations to outline their priorities for the sector…
Click here to read the Supporting Social Change: A New Funding Ecology report.