Stronger Foundations

Background and aims

Stronger Foundations is a flagship ACF project that aims to help grant-making charitable foundations identify and pursue excellent practice. Through this process, ACF will support its members to be ambitious, effective and expert, so that foundation resources are allocated for social good in a way that maximises the potential benefit to the individuals, communities and societies they support.

Essential to the initiative will be contributions from those beyond the foundation community. This will include experts from other sectors, funding beneficiaries, and academics, who will be invited to be involved in a variety of ways throughout.

Member involvement

It is intended that a very broad a range of ACF members will be involved, and all members will have opportunities to contribute. ACF will support this in a variety of ways, including working groups, regular communications, regional events across the nations of the UK (in collaboration with existing funder networks), and member surveys on particular issues.

Working groups

Around 90 member representatives are directly involved in one of six working groups, each of which focuses on a different thematic area (see below). The groups main aim is to examine, discuss and debate a series of challenging questions about foundation practice related to its theme. They are comprised of senior foundation representatives drawn from across ACF's membership, including a member of ACF’s board.

Each group will meet up to 7 times over an 18 month period. Meetings will vary in format depending on the topic and desired content, but are likely to include presentation of evidence (by internal and external experts), small group discussions, whole group exercises and visits. You can find out more about each of the working groups (after they go live) by clicking on the thematic areas below.

The working groups' full terms of reference can be viewed here. 

Thematic areas

Central to the initiative are six thematic areas, which were identified through consultation with ACF members and others. These are:

  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (began May 2018), chaired by Denise Ramsey, UnLtd
  • Impact and Learning (began July 2018), chaired by Jane Steele, Paul Hamlyn Foundation
  • Transparency and engagement (starts mid-December 2018), chaired by Paul Ramsbottom, Wolfson Foundation
  • Strategy and governance (starts mid-December 2018), chaired by Jerry Wright, Wates Foundation
  • Intentional investing (starts February 2019), chaired by Danielle Walker-Palmour, Friends Provident Foundation
  • Funding practices (starts February 2019), chaired by Chris Llewellyn, CriSeren Foundation

External engagement

Charitable foundations are both an integral part of civil society, and major supporters of it. Stronger Foundations provides ACF with an opportunity to engage members and enable conversations across the foundation sector, but the process must also be informed by (and communicate with) those outside of it. Therefore, ACF will ensure that external contributors are involved throughout, including critical friends, sector colleagues, funding recipients, academics and policy-makers.

Intended products and outputs

ACF will publish a range of outputs throughout, including articles and blogs, and engage in conversations through webinars and via social media using the hashtag #StrongerFoundations. You can many of these on the individual Working Group pages. 

All of these activities will contribute significantly to the raw material gathered through the initiative as a whole, from which ACF will create a variety of products. These are likely to include:

  • A 'rapporteur's report' of the working groups, which will summarise the breadth of discussions and evidence gathered;
  • A self-assessment tool for foundations to consider their practice and steps they could take to become 'stronger' across a range of domains; and
  • A narrative summary highlighting key principles and case studies of excellent practice. 

A reference group will be formed towards the end of the initiative, to sense-check and refine significant products as they emerge, which will be comprised of the chairs of each working group, ACF board members and others.

How to get involved

To speak to ACF about how your foundation can be involved in Stronger Foundations, or find out more about the progress to date of the initiative, please contact Esther Thompson (Head of Learning and Events) at and Max Rutherford (Head of Policy) at

You can join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #StrongerFoundations

Page last updated 20 November 2018

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