Although the first community foundation in the U.K. was established in 1975, the idea didn’t gain national momentum until after the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and the Mott Foundation partnered in 1988 to support an expert assistance program to promote the field’s growth and development.
What was accomplished in building community foundations in the U.K. is one of the great stories in philanthropy, with a multiplier effect that few grant programs anywhere can match.
Through its earlier efforts to build and strengthen the community foundation field in the U.S., Mott had learned that, while providing money was valuable, it often was equally as valuable and as necessary to provide ongoing access to consultants. These experts could share specific guidance about how to strengthen boards, create effective grants, cultivate donors, and engage residents.
"What was accomplished in building community foundations in the U.K. is one of the great stories in philanthropy, with a multiplier effect that few grant programs anywhere can match," said Doug Jansson, retired executive director of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and Mott consultant for the U.K. Endowment Challenge Grant Program. He added that the “multiplier effect” also was felt throughout Europe, and helped spark the field’s spread into Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and elsewhere.
Within two years of that first grant, Mott launched a £1 million challenge grant program to help U.K. community foundations build endowments to ensure their long-term sustainability. Under the guidance of Michael Brophy, who was then CAF’s chief executive, CAF raised an additional £1 million that also would be used for the matching grant program. The combined £2 million, which then was equal to roughly $3.2 million U.S., was awarded through a competitive application process.
Ten community foundations participated in the rigorous application process. Many described it as “a valuable learning exercise,” including applicants that were not among the three foundations selected to receive the endowment grants but went on to conduct successful fundraising campaigns of their own.
The challenge for each of the three foundations selected was to raise additional monetary matches — a new and appealing concept for participants, said George Hepburn, retired chief executive of the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. “That was an attractive sales line for us to use when looking for donors,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want their donation to go further? Without that challenge grant — and the technical assistance provided — the program would not have been as successful.”
Without that challenge grant ... the program would not have been as successful.
In all, the Mott/CAF partnership challenge raised more than £6 million for the U.K. field. The three foundations selected to receive the endowment grants were the Tyne & Wear, the Quartet Community Foundation (previously known as Greater Bristol Trust) and the Tees Valley Community Foundation (previously known as Cleveland Community Foundation).
In the two dozen years since the challenge grant program was announced, these three foundations have raised additional endowment funds totaling about £85 million today. They, like other U.K. community foundations, have been used as conduits to leverage funds from the national government to help local municipalities address societal needs. As a result, millions of taxpayers’ pounds regularly have been channeled to communities.