UK Foundations give £290 million to overseas development

19 October 2011

UK foundations gave an estimated £290 million to international development and related causes in 2009/10. 

The vast majority of the grants were made to civil society organisations in the UK and developing countries – equal to almost half the bilateral aid support given by the Department for International Development (DFID) to such organisations. 

Interntional development funding

The findings come from a study carried out by Cass Business School for The Nuffield Foundation, The Baring Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation. They include:

  • Spending on international development causes represents 9% of the spending of all UK independent foundations, which spend just over £3 billion per annum in grants.
  • The region attracting the highest number of foundation funders is Africa (37%), in particular East Africa.  This is followed by Asia (23%), and the Americas (13%).
  • Foundation support for civil society organisations in Africa is worth more than £90 million, and for Asia £56 million.
  • Independent foundations support an extremely diverse range of subject areas: direct health care and formal education attract the highest number of foundation funders (12% each), and sustainable economic/ agricultural development and investment attracts 10%, followed by utilities and infrastructure (9%).
  • Children and youth causes attract funding from 38% of the foundations in the study.

The research, entitled Global grantmaking: A review of UK foundations' funding for international development, also looked at the approach of UK foundations to supporting international development needs today.

It found that while independent foundations in the UK have a long and evolving history of funding internationally, there is growing interest in providing overseas aid. Recently formed foundations which fund internationally include the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, The Waterloo Foundation, the Wood Family Trust and the Ashmore Foundation.

Emerging trends in the approach of independent UK foundations include:

  • Investing in health, education, and sustainable development, particularly in Africa, issues now widely acknowledged as fundamental to global change.
  • Addressing inequalities in health and education in India.
  • Setting up new programmes in emerging areas of need such as climate change, neglected tropical diseases, and palliative care.
  • Working increasingly in partnerships with other philanthropic and non-philanthropic funders such as governments, international agencies and the private sector.
  • Tackling root causes of poverty through supporting sustainable agriculture and enterprise development. 

The research identified and studied 90 independent UK foundations providing funding worth over £50,000 per annum for international development and related causes in 2009/10. Their charitable spending represents 74% of the spending of all independent UK foundations. Data is based on figures published in annual reports and accounts, and on interviews with a small balanced sample of foundations.

The term ‘international development’ was used in this report to refer generically to activities in developing countries and emerging economies encompassing  growth, governance, health, education, gender, disaster relief, humanitarian aid, infrastructure, rights, economic and environmental sustainability, and associated research.

The study updates previous research commissioned by the Nuffield, Baring and Paul Hamlyn Foundations, and published in June 2007 under the title ‘Going Global’. Since this earlier study, it is notable that a number of new UK foundations which fund internationally have emerged, including the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, The Waterloo Foundation, The Ashmore Foundation and the Wood Family Trust.

The full report will be published in November.

See also

Africa Programme - we fund UK/Africa partnerships to increase the professional and academic training available for people in eastern and southern Africa.

Going Global - Read the 2007 report.