Frequently Asked Questions

 

Some commonly asked questions about the work of the Foundation Practice Rating.

Which foundations are covered?

The FPR assesses only charitable grant-making foundations. We have not included public grant-making agencies (such as local authorities or the research councils) because those have other accountability mechanisms.

How many foundations do you rate each year?

Around 100.

Will this include all UK grant-making foundations?

No, simply because there are more than the resources allow. We will assess:

1. All the foundations funding this project. They are all trying to learn and improve their own practice. This project is not about anybody hectoring anybody else. And:

2. A subset of other foundations. We will include all types of charitable grant-making foundation, e.g., endowed foundations, fund-raising foundations, family foundations, corporate foundations, community foundations. We will not include public grant-making agencies (e.g. local authorities or the research councils) because they have other accountability mechanisms. Our subset will be a mix of sizes (e.g. some of the largest, some mid-sized, some smaller ones). Our subset will be chosen at random from the list of the UK’s largest 300 foundations* as published in the Foundation Giving Trends report (2019; 2021) published by the Association of Charitable Foundations, plus the UK’s community foundations. We know that the money given is very skewed to the largest foundations (the UK’s largest 10 foundations give over a third of the total given by the UK’s largest 300 or so foundations; and giving by the Wellcome Trust alone is 12% of that) but we also know that the transactions that many charities experience cover the range of foundation sizes.

*In fact, that report details 338 foundations. Our set will comprise those, plus 45 community foundations (the 47 listed by UK Community Foundations minus the two for whom no financial information is given) i.e. 383 foundations in total.

How did you decide the sample for this year's Foundation Practice Rating?
  1. all the foundations funding this project. That is because this project is not about anybody pointing the finger at anybody else: the funding foundations are all being assessed as part of their work on improving. The foundations funding this project are listed on the partner’s page [1].
  2. the five largest foundations in the UK (by grant budget). This is because they are so large relative to the overall size of grant-making: the UK’s ten largest foundations give over a third of the total given by the UK’s largest 300 or so foundations. Giving by the Wellcome Trust alone is 12% of that.
  3. a stratified random subset of other foundations. We took the list of the UK’s largest foundations as published in the Foundation Giving Trends report 2019 published by the Association of Charitable Foundations[2], plus the UK’s community foundations listed by UK Community Foundations[3] for whom financial information is given. That gave 383 foundations. We then took a random sample which is a fifth from the top quintile (in terms of annual giving budget), a fifth from the second quintile, and so on.

 

[1] The foundations funding this project include the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust and Power to Change, neither of which are registered charities. They are the sole two non-charities included.

[2] https://www.acf.org.uk/policy-practice/research-publications/

[3] https://www.ukcommunityfoundations.org/

Are there any exemptions to the criteria?

We have excluded some criteria if they are not relevant to an organisation, e.g. if you have a small staff and/or trustee team (under 49) then we would not expect you to report on the gender pay gap. You can find a full list of exemptions here.

I’m a UK foundation. Can I opt into this?

Yes, by becoming a funder of the project. If you are not a funder then you may be randomly chosen. Please contact Danielle Walker Palmour on danielle.walker@friendsprovidentfoundation.org.uk if you want to be part of the funding group and guarantee that you will get assessed and be part of the sample.

You can also opt in without being a funder, however you will not be part of the official sample. Please contact Danielle Walker Palmour on danielle.walker@friendsprovidentfoundation.org.uk if you want to opt in and guarantee that you will get assessed (there is a small charge). 

What is the timetable on what will happen next?

The Foundation Practice Rating is a cyclic project. Research begins in September, information webinars take place during October/November, the report is launched in March via an event. There is information about best practice shared throughout the year. The Year Two report is out now!

The next report will be launched in March 2024. 

Is this an index or a ranking?

No, it is very important to stress that the system provides a rating of foundations, not a ranking.

Why a rating?

The reason we chose to do a rating and not an index or ranking is because prospective applicants experience absolute performance. A ranking is a zero-sum system: if somebody rises, somebody else must fall. One organisation’s gain is at somebody else’s expense. This is not how foundation practice works.

Who funded this project?

Check out the partners page to see who has funded this project.

Is this rating system just analysing our communucations?

The answer is no. It is seeing how transparent an organisation is, meaning it looks at what is published, e.g. decision-making about grants.

How do I sign up to get updates on this project?

Keep an eye out on Twitter feeds of Giving Evidence’s Director Caroline Fiennes here and Friends Provident Foundation here.

Alternatively, you can sign up by contacting Giving Evidence here.

Who did the research?

The design of the rating system (including defining the criteria and research process) has been led by Giving Evidence, an independent consultancy. Giving Evidence works to encourage and enable giving based on sound evidence. Its role has been to develop the rating system, including the criteria and scoring system, and to produce the research and analysis for the ratings.

Will you publish the report in Welsh?

We published the Year One report in Welsh. For Year Twi we invested in ReciteMe an app that offers accessibility and translation. You know can translate in many different languages.

What are the three domains?

The FPR covers three ‘domains’:

  • Diversity. The extent to which a foundation reports on the diversity of its staff and trustees, the extent to which a foundation reports on its plans to improve its diversity, and how well it caters for people who prefer/need to communicate in different ways, i.e. how accessible it is? (We do not look at issues such as how well foundations capture views from a diverse set of stakeholders to inform their work, nor the diversity of the work they fund.)
  • Accountability. How can anyone who wants to examine the work or decisions of a foundation do so, and after the event, and make their voice heard?
  • Transparency. Does a potential grantee have access to the information that it needs to be able to contact the foundation and decide whether to apply for funding in advance of any grant?
How do you calculate a foundation score?

Check the scoring page for more details

How much does it cost?

The FPR costs  £141,667 for year 1, this includes: consultation, publication, comms, research and development.

For the following years, we estimate it will cost £87,500.

The 10 funders (13 from Year Two) or “the partners”  have covered the costs of the project. We are always looking for more organisations to support this important work.