The group is comprised of senior foundation representatives drawn from across ACF's membership, who will meet 7 times over an 18 month period. The meetings, which will vary in format depending on the topic and desired content, will include presentation of evidence (by experts from within and beyond the foundation sector), small group discussions, whole group exercises and visits. The group's full terms of reference can be found here.
The members of the group are: Jerry Wright, Wates Family Charities (group chair); Sheila Jane Malley, trustee of Co-op Foundation and Rosa (and ACF trustee); Steph Taylor, Charities Aid Foundation; Ellie Stout, Rothschild Foundation; Tina Gwynne-Evans, Bupa UK Foundation; Sara van der Pas, Wellcome Trust; Jo Wells, Blagrave Trust; Emily Harrison, Asda Foundation; John McCrohan, Masonic Charitable Foundation; Cherry Bushell, Wakefield and Tetley Trust; Quentin Elston, Mr.Willats' Charity; Lucy Bushill-Matthews, National Zakat Foundation; Pierre M Espinasse, The Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research; Debbie Lye, Spirit of 2012 Trust; Katie Le Quesne, chair of Lloyds Bank Foundation for the Channel Islands
Meeting SnapshotsMeeting #1 (December 2018) - Introduction meeting
Meeting #3 (April 2019) – What comes first, strategy or governance?
This meeting considered the question ‘Does strategy lead your governance or does your governance lead your strategy?
Penny Wilson, CEO of Getting on Board, shared her perspective with the group. Penny presented trends and issues on governance, for example the limitations of recruitment platforms and the possible misguided approach to trustee skills, before directly addressing the question framing the session. What comes first, strategy or governance? Penny responded that strategy comes first, and that governance is an effective tool to support and implement that strategy.
Penny posed a series of questions to the group, including:
- Are you comfortable that you have the right expertise on your Board?
- Is it ok for foundations to be different cases?
- Is there a role for foundations to strengthen governance in the wider sector? What are the best ways for foundations to support grantees with governance challenges?
- Is it ok for foundations to advocate open trustee recruitment if they are not practising it themselves?
Penny’s presentation resonated with many, and several other issues came to light in the ensuing discussion.
Board culture, internal power dynamics, and the balance between strategy and compliance at board meetings were all issues that influenced how foundations approached their strategy and governance.
Having teased out some of the issues, group members were given time to explore their own answers to the question ‘what comes first, strategy or governance?’ through visual representations. The group then came together to share their visualisations, which range from boxes and arrows to centipedes and leaves.
Looking more specifically at different foundation contexts, the group divided considered the influence of the founder or donor over the direction of the foundation from the perspectives of family, corporate and publicly-funded foundations. Emergent themes included the need to evolve over time, the distance between the foundation and the founder or donor’s other philanthropy, and the importance of values and purpose in guiding the foundation. There were also questions of accountability, choice and decision-making, with different implications for privately or publicly-funded foundations.
Below you will find a suggested reading list, which the working group identified and considered as part of its deliberations. If you would like to send suggestions to us, please do by emailing Max@acf.org.uk
- Charity Governance Code (2017)
- Governance Action Inquiry (2018) article by Julian Corner, Lankelly Chase Foundation
- Philanthropy delivers an outcome - and its name is Brett Kavanaugh (2018) Brad K Smith, President of the Foundation Center
- Foundation strategy ... the enemy of collaboration? (2015) Brad K Smith
- The looming crisis in charity trustee recruitment (2017) Getting on Board
- How to recruit trustees for your charity: A practical guide (2019) Getting on Board