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ACF Chief Executive Carol Mack appointed as a new board member for Dafne

Carol Mack, ACF’s Chief Executive, was this week appointed as a new board member for Dafne, the network that brings together donors and foundations associations in Europe. In this blog, Carol explains why she stood for election to Dafne and why engaging internationally with other European colleagues matters to foundations after Brexit.

After much blood, sweat and tears the UK finally really did leave the EU at the beginning of 2021. Of course, many of those tears were ones of joy rather than sorrow – assuming that the proportion of leave voters has not waned significantly over the years that have elapsed since the Brexit vote. Wherever you stand on that most divisive of issues, it is self-evident that although the UK has left the EU, it has not left the continent of Europe. We will need to find new ways to relate to and work with our European neighbours – and this applies just as much to civil society actors as it does to governments.

Many of the issues that foundations are engaged with transcend national borders. Scientific research is a global endeavour, migration is by its very definition a transnational issue, and the climate crisis cannot be neatly contained within individual jurisdictions. Foundation endowments are often invested globally. And one of the biggest drivers of regulation impacting on foundations in recent years has been the result of international efforts to crack down on money laundering and financing of terrorism – both laudable aims – but which often have unintended consequences for UK charities with capital who seek to use their funding entirely for social good.

As the UK enters this new world outside the EU, I believe it is more important than ever that we remain alert to opportunities to work together with our European colleagues on matters of common concern. As my colleague, Richard Hebditch, ACF’s Director of External Affairs has noted: “the UK government will lose its right to take part in EU policy formulation, paradoxically it may well be the case that UK organisations will spend just as much time – if not more – working with European partners to try to influence the EU than they did before Brexit”.

Fortunately for foundations there are ready-made pathways to continue and deepen our engagement with European colleagues and to understand how the EU sees matters relating to philanthropy, social investment and civil society more broadly. In addition to our close working relationship with the European Foundation Centre, EFC, ACF was also one of the founding members of Dafne, the membership association that brings together national philanthropy infrastructure bodies that, like us, seek to support foundations in their work.

Dafne has been a fantastic enabler of cross-border practice exchange and collaboration right across Europe, as well as a focal point for exchange with colleagues from further afield, including the US and Brazil. And given the challenges of the current time, the work that Dafne does in connecting and representing philanthropy across Europe is more important than ever. In the last twelve months alone ACF has contributed to working groups looking at how the UK Funder Commitment on Climate Change might inspire similar initiatives in other countries, exchanged insights on the way that charitable trusts are regulated, and learned much from the way that other national associations support their members.

So when the call for nominees to Dafne’s board came this autumn, I felt impelled to stand for election and support more actively the continuation of this invaluable work. As a passionate believer in the value of foundations and their amazing potential to transform private wealth into public benefit, I wanted to support the role that Dafne can play in helping foundations across Europe to be ambitious and effective in the way that they use their resources for good. I’m delighted and honoured to have been elected to serve by my peers, and am looking forward to working alongside colleagues from Italy, Poland and France on the Dafne board in the months ahead.

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