Election Manifestos: Key points for foundations
In what has been an unusual (and unusually contracted) election period, we have reached that point …
The manifestos have arrived.
We will not lack for analysis in the coming weeks, and NCVO have produced an excellent summary of the issues relevant to the charity sector as whole.
But what, if anything, do the manifestos have to say about the issues, priorities and operating considerations directly relevant to foundations?
On first reading, the manifestos seem relatively light on references to funders, philanthropy and grant-making. What is clear, however, is that broader social and economic issues, especially around the challenges and opportunities of Brexit, will impact the work of the foundation community in any number of ways. Those funding in areas such as housing, social cohesion or education, for example, will find plenty of content relevant to their practice.
There is certainly no shortage of challenges. And as vital contributors to a healthy civil society, foundations will no doubt play an important part in shaping, delivering, and sustaining solutions.
Although it does not come as a surprise, many foundations will be pleased to see Labour reaffirm their commitment to repealing the Lobbying Act. A number of foundations have expressed disquiet about the potential chilling effect on both their activities and those of the organisations they fund. While remaining aware of the need for public trust and transparency around non-party campaigning, renewed clarity around the important role that charities (including foundations) can play in advocacy and policy development would be broadly welcomed.
ACF’s Interim Head of Policy, Charlotte Ravenscroft, has written in more detail about how charities can effectively campaign in the run-up to the current election.
The Lib Dem manifesto includes a commitment to continued work with the Education Endowment Foundation, and the ongoing development of an evidence-base about pedagogical best-practice. In addition, there is a pledge to support and develop the social investment market which they see as a potential contributor to a financially robust charity sector.
Of most interest, however, are the sections of the manifesto which point clearly towards a pluralistic vision of the UK economy, including recognition of social purpose and mixed-motive business models:
“A well-functioning economy which works for everyone cannot be based solely on companies owned by and operated on behalf of small groups of shareholders. It should seek to foster a diversity of types of business, including encouraging alternative models such as charities, mutuals, social enterprises or community-interest companies.”
There is ambiguity here about how dormant assets will be used in the service of generating investment income via sovereign wealth funds. Many in the sector have called for the money to be used to endow community foundations, capitalising on their networks of local knowledge and their potential to leverage in further philanthropic funding. Again, additional clarification would be welcomed.
Foundations may also have a role to play in the United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund, which will use structural fund money that comes back to the UK following Brexit to: “reduce inequalities between communities across our four nations”. In further discussions about where and how such funding is redirected, some foundations may have a role to play in using their knowledge and expertise to make the case for equitable settlements on behalf of their beneficiaries, or in supporting them to make the case themselves.
Head of External Affairs, ACF