Sunday, 19 May 2024
Sunday, 19 May 2024

Building the foundations for the future

LOOKING back over the past couple of months you could be forgiven for thinking: where did it all go wrong? I’m not going to talk about the political upheavals and economic instability that have dominated the news cycle – you would have heard enough of that by now. Instead, I’m going to tell you about some of the goings-on at UKCF and the wider community foundation network that can give us cause for hope.

Between the 10-13 October we hosted our first in-person conference for over three years. Foundations for the Future saw hundreds of delegates come together from across the UK and around the world to explore new approaches to place-based philanthropy. Over the course of the three-day conference, we heard from a host of dynamic, thoughtful and innovative speakers. From our endowments to our grant-making, we were challenged to think about how we best use our power and resources to support communities through the challenging times ahead.

It felt like a critical juncture for the global network of community foundations and philanthropy professionals in attendance. The closing remarks by Dr Stefan Cibian of the Făgăraș Research Institute reminded us that “the challenges we confront in local communities are not just local anymore. They are increasingly and, by now, primarily global.” In the room there were hundreds of people from around the globe that are committed to leveraging the immense value of place-based philanthropy for the common good of their communities. It was powerful to know that each one of them would travel home with new ideas, colleagues and energy to help improve the places around them.

Practical steps to building resilience

About a month ago we published a report looking at the leading role that community philanthropy can play in building resilience. It looks at the place-based work of community foundations in the context of levelling up and tackling regional inequality.

It makes clear and actionable recommendations on why and how we should be growing community philanthropy. It explains how money yet to be allocated from the Dormant Assets Scheme could be used to launch a government-backed match-funding programme that would build community endowments and help create a new generation of local philanthropists. It also explains how community philanthropy is a creator of social capital as it brings people together from different walks of life and builds bridges between different sectors.

The thread that runs through the report is resilience. It’s about ensuring that communities across our country have a sustainable asset base they can rely on. We know that there is a wealth of local insight, experience, and expertise out there. Our challenge as community foundations is to resource and empower it.

It’s clear that there is a consensus that more needs to be done to encourage regional giving in the UK. The excellent recent article in FT Wealth on ‘diaspora philanthropists’ highlighted the work of entrepreneurs that are choosing to give back to the different parts of the UK to which they have a connection. This is an encouraging trend. We hope that it continues and that the real value of community philanthropy receives the recognition it deserves.

Rosemary Macdonald, CEO, UK Community Foundations

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