By Rosemary Macdonald, CEO at UK Community Foundations
As we step into 2024, now is the opportunity to balance the scales for the grassroots organisations and charities we depend on so greatly. Throughout the challenges of the past few years, they have been the backbone of local support to communities far and wide. At the same time, they have also been fighting for their own survival with many having to close their doors, either temporarily or for good.
By reducing the financial barriers that vital services are experiencing to keep their doors open, they can continue to transform the lives of the people they most desperately want to help. Accredited community foundations are place-based funders that connect donors with local community organisations, and are strong advocates of supporting these grassroots organisations.
I therefore welcome the findings of Philanthropy 2023, published by UK Community Foundations (UKCF), which signals a notable shift in the philanthropic landscape towards supporting collaborative and community-driven initiatives.
Here are my key takeaways from the Philanthropy 2023 report:
We are seeing a paradigm shift in philanthropy
Traditional philanthropy has often followed top-down models, where decisions are made centrally, often detached from the unique needs of local communities.
Philanthropy 2023 signals a significant departure from this approach. Last year, UKCF worked with donors to create more learning-focused partnerships that collaborate with communities and understand the challenges and lessons around funding initiatives, in order to help determine future programmes and advise decision-makers. This is something we embraced during the pandemic, learning a lot from the frontline services we supported through our Coronavirus Appeal in partnership with the National Emergencies Trust.
Empowering communities means going beyond providing financial assistance. It involves actively connecting with community members in decision-making processes, providing them with the tools and resources to shape their own destinies. Local grassroots groups have the knowledge and experience to help shape the work of funders, and we are proud that more donors want to take this approach with us.
Donors want to create tangible and sustainable change
Donors are increasingly seeking lasting impacts from their philanthropic investments, supporting initiatives like social inclusion schemes, environmental programmes and economic development projects.
The report shows a rise in endowments managed by the UKCF network. Our endowments are invested by communities for communities, which essentially means that our members are able to support charities and voluntary organisations year after year in an effective, sustainable way. Collectively, our network’s endowments have risen by 14% since 2020, showing a drive for longer-lasting support towards local organisations.
It’s time for funders to move from transactional to transformational
Philanthropy 2023 advocates for a transformative approach to philanthropy, moving beyond simple transactions to create lasting change.
Where traditional philanthropy might be seen as a one-time donation with a specific outcome, a transformational approach involves a deeper, ongoing commitment. This involves engaging with communities, understanding their evolving needs and adapting strategies to meet those needs over time. This is at the heart of what community foundations do. They build relationships, foster empowerment and contribute to the long-term betterment of communities.
In 2024 and beyond, UKCF’s focus will be on aligning philanthropic efforts with broader goals of social justice and resilience. This means addressing systemic issues at their roots, advocating for inclusivity and ensuring that our initiatives contribute, not just to immediate relief, but also to the long-term strength and resilience of the communities we serve.
You can find our Philanthropy 2023 report here.