Last year the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) published their report Giving Trends. The report sets out key facts on giving, income and assets in the top 300 UK independent charitable foundations and provides an extraordinary and detailed insight into the activities of independent foundations ‘whose existence originates in philanthropy’. The scale of spending by these independent and often family business-based organisations is breath-taking. The ACF research shows that grant spending by the top 300 foundations in 2014/15 was £2.7 billion. Of the 16,500 grants made the majority went to education and training, followed by health, arts and culture. As the report says the foundations represent a unique means for ‘transforming private wealth into public benefit’.
Foundations give away large sums of money. It is their money and it is for them to decide, acting within the parameters of their charitable purposes, on the organisations that they will support. But most foundations do not have large administrative teams able to undertake lengthy, in depth, examination of all the relevant aspects of a charity’s governance and other arrangements. There are times when a foundation may be uncertain about the capability and capacity of a charity it wishes to support and invest in. There may be times when it has concerns about a charity that it is already supporting. This is when independent and objective investigation and assurance by a trusted third party can be invaluable.