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ACF Virtual Annual Conference - Opening Keynote

Click here to read Carol Mack's Keynote Speech in full

The ACF Virtual Annual Conference commenced today. The theme of this year’s Conference is Stronger Foundations: Reflect. Recover. Renew., offering a unique opportunity for funders to come together as a community and collectively take stock. Learning from the pandemic is the focus of the first day, while the second day builds on these lessons looking ahead to other challenges.

ACF’s Chief Executive, Carol Mack, welcomed attendees with a keynote speech reflecting on the past year and setting the tone for the Conference sessions ahead. She began by addressing the tough legacy Covid-19 has already begun to create: rising unemployment; shutting down of whole sectors; reduced access to care; disproportionate impact on black and minority ethnic communities; and worrying effect of lockdown on disabled people.

These legacies, coupled with the decline in income from government over the last decade, mean that “charities have been trying to do more and more, with less and less resources, dwindling reserves, and with a donor base that could well take a hit from high unemployment.” Philanthropy alone certainly cannot fill these gaps, which is why sector-wide efforts for increasing government support like the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign are so vital.

There is much for the sector to be proud of, and Carol expressed her appreciation of funders for stepping up in responding to the pandemic. Many foundations provided immediate emergency funding, helped existing grantees, addressed gaps in funding – particularly in relation to funding BAME-led organisations – and recognised the need to work collaboratively to maximise impact.

Yet much more work remains to be done. Carol particularly gave thanks to the Black Lives Matter protests for shining a spotlight on structural racism, noting that the sector needs to embrace the individual and collective discomfort of dismantling racist structures on the journey towards a more diverse, inclusive and equitable sector: “it is a journey that demands us all to move at speed.”

Carol’s introductory reflections offer a taste of the many lessons that can be drawn from the past year. This is what ACF hopes to draw out by creating a virtual space for funders to reflect on the work we do, recover somewhat from the challenges we have faced, and renew our resolve to be ambitious in the year ahead.

Through ACF’s Stronger Foundations initiative, members set a high bar for pursuing ambitious and effective foundation practice in the coming year. Coming together for the ACF Virtual Annual Conference highlights the value of connections, one of the cross-cutting themes of the Stronger Foundations reports. Thinking and acting collaboratively enables us “to be more than the sum of our parts”, which is greatly needed to face the complex yet critical challenges ahead.

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