Transparency Talk

Category: "United Kingdom" (6 posts)

The Case for Opening Up Foundations Meetings to the Public
December 6, 2016

(Caroline Fiennes is Director of Giving Evidence, and author of It Ain't What You Give. She co-authored a recent report investigating the role open meetings play in increasing transparency. A version of this post was originally published on Giving Evidence, and has been reposted here with permission.)

Caroline FiennesAll charities and charitable foundations exist to serve the public good. Most of them are subsidized by the public through various tax breaks. Any publicly-listed company must have a meeting at least annually at which the directors are held accountable to the people whose capital they deploy. In over 15 years in this "industry," we’ve only encountered two charities/foundations in the UK which have meetings at which the public – or the intended beneficiaries – can know what goes on. The 800-year-old fund, City Bridge Trust in London, lets anybody observe its decision-making meetings, and Global Giving UK has an annual general meeting (AGM) at which anybody can ask anything. Why don’t more?

It’s hard to be accountable to people, or to hear from people, if they’re not in the room. So we wondered how many charities and foundations have public meetings.

Giving Evidence simply telephoned the 20 largest charities and foundations in each of the UK and the US and asked whether they ever have any meetings which are open to the public, and whether the public can ask questions. Of the 82 organizations we asked, only two have any meetings in public. None allows the public to ask questions.

Open-meetings-coverThis is about accountability and transparency to the people who provide subsidy and to the people the charities and foundations exist to serve.

Suppose that a nonprofit is treated poorly by a grantmaking organization. How can you tell the management of that funder of your experience? Or suppose that the foundation’s strategy could be strengthened by knowledge that you have about a particular population group or region? How can you offer your expertise? Or suppose that the grantees that a foundation is supporting are not providing the services they are supposed to be providing? How can you provide the foundation with your beneficiary feedback? For most foundations, you can’t. This seems to us not good enough.

Hence it’s not the norm elsewhere. For instance, all UK local authorities have their decision-making meetings in public, as does the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence which decides what treatments can be funded from public money.

What’s to hide? One foundation representative perhaps gave the game away by saying outright: “We are accountable to ourselves, not [to] the public. They do not fund us.” Given the tax subsidy, that just isn’t true.

Our purpose here is not to moan or cast blame, but to raise the issue and suggest some ways that charities and foundations can be more accountable and transparent to those who fund them. We are not suggesting that every single charitable entity be required to hold them; most of the 180,000 registered charities in the UK and a million in the US have zero staff. Rather, we suggest requiring organizations with budgets over a certain threshold to hold such events – that threshold might be £1m or $1m, and it might rise over time.

--Caroline Fiennes

Eye On: David Sainsbury
August 27, 2015

(Caroline Broadhurst is deputy chief executive officer at The Rank Foundation. Through the Clore Social Leadership Programmeshe was a visiting fellow at the Foundation Center. This is part of her series about the motivations of U.K. donors who have signed the Giving Pledge. For more information about David Sainsbury and the other Giving Pledgers, visit Foundation Center's Eye on the Giving Pledge.) 

David Sainsbury describes his approach to philanthropy as “very simple” in his Giving Pledge letter, which also details his family’s giving philosophy.

David-Sainsbury-1“The approach of my wife, Susie, and I to philanthropy is very simple,” Sainsbury said. “We do not believe that spending any more money on ourselves or our family would add anything to our happiness. However, using it to support social progress we have found deeply fulfilling. We focus on a few areas which require investment and which we care about deeply, and seeing these projects develop and bring major benefits to people has been a life-enhancing experience.”  Sainsbury desires to strategically and proactively give away his wealth to the social causes he cares about.


David Sainsbury:

  • Former Chairman of J. Sainsbury plc
  • Labour Peer
  • British born U.K. resident
  • Former Minister of Science and Innovation
  • Became Lord Sainsbury of Turville in 1997
  • Became Chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 2011
  • Accepted the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Philanthropy on behalf of the Sainsbury Family in 2003
  • Net worth $ 1.1 billion    

For the second consecutive year, the Sainsbury family topped the 2015 Sunday Times Giving List which tracks the giving amounts of U.K. philanthropists.  The Sainsbury Family donated $314.2 million – or 40 percent of their wealth – to the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, 18 grant-making trusts.  Each trust has its own board of trustees, led by an active family member. 

Philanthropy is a family priority that has spanned four generations.  In 1869, Sainsbury’s great-grandparents opened a grocery store, Sainsbury’s, that would eventually become one of the U.K.’s largest supermarket chains.  Educated at Eton and Cambridge, Sainsbury joined the family business, J. Sainsbury plc.  He served in many capacities, including finance director, chairman and deputy chairman before stepping down from the board in 1998. 

Like much of his extended family, Sainsbury’s interests in philanthropy started at an early age when he set up the Gatsby Charitable Foundation in 1967, just four years after graduating from King’s College at the University of Cambridge. Over the years, Sainsbury has given the Gatsby Charitable Foundation more than $1.55 billion.  The foundation provides grants in the key priority areas of plant science, neuroscience, education, public policy, the arts and Africa.  

In his Giving Pledge letter, Sainsbury explained that investments in plant science and neuroscience have the best long-term potential for making a difference in the fields of food security and mental health.  Through the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, he gave more than $193 million to his alma mater, the University of Cambridge, one of the largest donations to a U.K university.  An M.B.A. graduate of the University of Columbia, Sainsbury prioritizes education.  The Gatsby makes education grants to various universities, including Stanford University, the University of Columbia and Harvard University.

Unlike his wealthy contemporaries who tend not to mix political and philanthropic interests, the 74-year-old father-of-three has been an active participant in British politics.  Sainsbury has been a major donor to The Labour Party for many years.  In 1997, he was elevated to the House of Lords as a Labour Peer, and he sits on the Labour benches as Lord Sainsbury of Turville.  Under Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sainsbury accepted the unremunerated post of Minister for Science and Technology.  His interests in politics and philanthropy share common ground with an emphasis on innovation, partnership and long-term strategy. 

Sainsbury advocates that charitable foundations should take risks that governments, in their role as guardians of the public money, may not.  He believes that taking risks, whether in education, international development, science or research, helps expedite the broader social and fiscal needs agenda.  In 2009, he set up the Institute for Government, a venture that seeks to “act as a catalyst for inspiring the best in government.”  Similarly, he created the Centre for Cities, a research organization that evaluates British cities’ economic growth and change and helps them to improve their performance. 

In many ways, Lord Sainsbury’s public life reflects his philanthropic interests, from government to education and the arts, including his post as Chancellor of University of Cambridge since 2011. He continues to engage in public policy as evidenced in his 2013 book, Progressive Capitalism, an effort to stimulate conversations on politics and the economy.  

--Caroline Broadhurst

Eye On: Chris Hohn
August 6, 2015

(Caroline Broadhurst is deputy chief executive officer at The Rank Foundation and through the Clore Social Leadership Programme was a visiting fellow at Foundation Center. This is part of her series about the motivations of U.K. donors who have signed the Giving Pledge. For more about Chris Hohn and the other Giving Pledgers, visit Foundation Center's Eye on the Giving Pledge.)

Hohn-150Among the many different models of fundraising and grantmaking, The Children's Investment Fund and its counterpart Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), stand out in terms of scale and reach. In 2003, Chris Hohn created an innovative model for The Children's Investment Fund in which investors pay a fee to the Foundation, incrementally, depending on the Fund's performance. Fast-forward a dozen years, and CIFF has endowed assets over $4 billion. While Mr. Hohn uses his skills from the investing world, CEO Michael Anderson manages the Foundation on a day-to-day basis. The foundation's mission is to transform the lives of poor and vulnerable children in developing countries in the areas of children and mothers' health and nutrition; children's education, deworming and welfare; and climate change.

Chris Hohn:

  • Successful hedge-fund manager
  • British-born U.K. resident
  • Father of four children, including triplets
  • Co-founder of Children's Investment Fund Foundation
  • Personal net worth is over $1 billion

Mr. Hohn and his former wife, Jamie Cooper, are co-founders of CIFF, and both serve on its Board of Trustees. Both are generous philanthropists. Ms. Cooper was ranked #3 and Mr. Hohn was ranked #7 among British givers, according to the 2015 Sunday Times Giving List, which identified top givers and the percentage of wealth they give away. The same list, co-sponsored by the Charities Aid Foundation, also ranked CIFF as #5 in assets among British charities. In 2014, Mr. Hohn was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) for his service to philanthropy and international development.

Mr. Hohn attended Southampton University in England and moved to Boston to complete his MBA at Harvard University as a Baker Scholar. According to Active Philanthropy, Ms. Cooper recalled that her former husband was first inspired to explore philanthropy when he visited the Philippines early in his career and was shocked at the plight of children who lived in extreme poverty. This experience may have spurred Mr. Hohn to direct CIFF's ambitious aim "to demonstrably improve the lives of children living in poverty in developing countries by achieving large scale and sustainable impact." Much of the London-based organization's work takes place in Africa and South Asia, with strategic priorities focused on nutrition, child survival, educational achievement and more recently, climate change. CIFF works in partnership with governments, policy-makers and NGOs to address global issues. In 2014, CIFF awarded $122.2 million in grant awards.

-- Caroline Broadhurst

Eye On: John Caudwell
August 8, 2013

(Caroline Broadhurst is director of Community Care Projects at the Rank Foundation and, through the Clore Social Leadership Programme, a visiting fellow at the Foundation Center. This is the first of a series of post she will be writing about the motivations of UK donors who have signed the Giving Pledge. For more about John Caudwell and the other Giving Pledgers, visit the Foundation Center's Eye on the Giving Pledge.)

John Caudwell

"Philanthropy gives me far more pleasure and satisfaction than making money."

— John Caudwell

From modest beginnings, 60-year-old John David Caudwell has established himself as one of the most successful English businessmen in modern times. After leaving school before earning what in the U.S. would have been his high-school diploma, Caudwell went to work for Michelin, the French tire manufacturer at the company's factory in the West Midlands. Not content to remain an engineering foreman, however, he nurtured his entrepreneurial instincts and soon began to create money-making ventures, including a corner shop and mail-order motorcycle clothing business.

Combining his mechanical knowledge — he earned an HNC in mechanical engineering while working at Michelin — and his growing business experience, Caudwell eventually set up a car dealership, with many of his former Michelin factory friends among his loyal customers. Displaying the entrepreneurial sensibility that would become his trademark, in 1987 he took a chance on the nascent mobile phone industry, starting Midland Mobile Phones with his brother, Brian. Despite running at a loss in its first few years, the business turned into a huge success, and by the 2000s the company, by then called Phones4U, was the largest independent distributor of cellular phones in the UK, selling an average of 26 phones every minute and earning more than $1.5 billion annually.

  • Entrepreneur
  • Philanthropist
  • British born UK resident
  • Father of five
  • Avid cyclist
  • Net worth $2.6 billion

Ever the shrewd businessman, Caudwell anticipated the end of the company's rapid-growth phase and sold a majority stake in it for $2.8 billion in 2006, followed by the remaining 25 percent for $72 million in 2011. He then created new business opportunities in the areas of health, real estate and the environment and became a vocal and passionate advocate for the role of British businesses in the larger European context. (He is also reported to be Britain's biggest taxpayer, having contributed almost $400 million to the Exchequer since 2008.)

Long before then, Caudwell's interest had expanded to philanthropy, including support for UK-based charities such as the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), and the Princes Trust, as well as Caudwell Children, a charitable organization he founded in 2000.

Since its inception, Caudwell has raised $40 million for the organization, which annually provides some three thousand children with disabilities and their families with much needed equipment and respite support. Like many of his contemporaries, Caudwell takes a venture approach to philanthropy, contributing time, extensive social networks, and deep business expertise, as well as financial support, to the organizations and causes he is passionate about. An avid cyclist, Caudwell also raises funds for the organization by participating in charity bike rides all over Britain and beyond.

In early 2013, Caudwell encouraged Bill Gates to promote the Giving Pledge to wealthy donors outside the United States. As he explains in his Giving Pledge letter his motivation in joining other Pledgers is grounded in his belief in helping others: "Everything I do now has some degree of feel-good factor." At the same time, his growing interest in philanthropy has hardly lessened his desire to create more wealth. "Making money," he writes in the letter, "is now largely driven by the knowledge that I will be able to leave even more wealth when I go."

-- Caroline Broadhurst

View John Caudwell's Eye on the Giving Pledge Profile»

Enabling More Effective Giving by UK Foundations
July 24, 2013

(Loren Treisman, PhD, serves as Trust Executive for the Indigo Trust in London. A version of this post originally appeared on the Indigo Trust’s blog on July 1st, 2013.)

Treisman-100Last month, The Indigo Trust hosted a working lunch which brought together data experts and civil society representatives to explore how we could encourage UK Foundations to publish their data in an open format in order to make grant giving more effective.

We believe that being transparent in itself is the right thing to do, but the reasons for encouraging openness go far beyond this. In summary, openness makes grantmaking better.

We believe that being transparent in itself is the right thing to do, but the reasons for encouraging openness go far beyond this. In summary, openness makes grantmaking better. We believe that opening up grant data will enable more effective collaboration amongst funders and between civil society and funders, allow for more effective strategic planning which will ensure that money gets to where it’s needed the most, enable grantmakers to assess their impact and demonstrate this to the public and enable analysis of interventions across a whole sector such as health or higher education.

A great example of how open data can lead to better understanding of a sector is demonstrated here, where Water, Sanitation and Hygiene funders released their data to enable more effective collaboration and programmatic design across the sector globally. DFID’s development tracker is another excellent example of the power of open data and enables users to trace aid flows globally.

It’s exciting to see a movement toward such openness globally, with interventions such as the Open Government Partnership. The UK has also taken a lead in this movement, with DFID publishing all its data to an IATI standard and being ranked first in terms of Aid transparency by Publish What You Fund. The UK has also taken a lead in developing the G8 Open Data Charter. Now it’s time for Foundations to play their part.

We have set ourselves a goal to ensure that within five years, 80% of grants made by UK charities, foundations & other grantmakers are reported as open data to agreed standards and 50% by number/volume.

This should enable grantmakers in the UK to have a clear understanding of who is funding what, where and at what level, and also enable more strategic philanthropy and collaboration and improve transparency for the public and authorities.

Watch this space for further details on how we intend to move forward with this programme.

The following people attended the working lunch and we’d like to thank them for their crucial insights and contributions:

Simon Marshall, Big Lottery Funding
Cathy Pharoah, Cass Business School
Owen Barder, Centre for Global Development
Beth Breeze, Centre for Philanthropy – Kent University
Adam Pickering, Charities Aid Foundation
Joni Hillman, Development Initiatives
Mary Glanville, Institute for Philanthropy
Carol Mack, Association of Charitable Foundations
Tom Steinberg, mySociety
David Kane, NCVO– National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Charlotte Ravenscroft, NCVO – National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Dan Corry, New Philanthropy Capital
Ed Anderton, Nominet Trust
Martin Tisne, Omidyar Network
Chris Taggart, Open Corporates
Nigel Shadbolt, Open Data Institute
Richard Stirling, Open Data Institute
Rufus Pollock, Open Knowledge Foundation
Tim Davies, Practical Participation
Mark Brough, Publish What You Fund
David Hall-Matthews, Publish What You Fund
Dorothea Hodge, Aequitas Consulting

Fran Perrin, Founder and Director, Indigo Trust
William Perrin, Trustee, Indigo Trust
Loren Treisman, Executive, Indigo Trust
Richard Crellin, Researcher, Indigo Trust/SFCT

If you’re a Foundation, open data expert or civil society group and you’re interested in getting involved in this initiative, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

--Loren Treisman

Editor’s Note: The Indigo Trust is part of The Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts (SFCT). SFCT is the operating office of 18 grantmaking trusts established by three generations of the Sainsbury family. David Sainsbury, founder of the Gatsby Charitable Foundation has been profiled in our Eye on the Giving Pledge and you can read his profile here.

Glasspockets Find: The Giving Pledge Goes Global
February 19, 2013

The Giving Pledge Goes Global.

Explore the Eye on the
Giving Pledge»

A press release, announced on February 19, 2013, that 12 additional families have joined the Giving Pledge, the effort launched by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010 to encourage the wealthiest Americans to commit the majority of their assets to philanthropic causes. The new pledgers are all from outside the United States, marking a global expansion of the Giving Pledge effort and bringing the total number of signatories to 105 individuals, spouses, and their families.

The new pledgers include:

Since August 2012, Glasspockets has been keeping an Eye on the Giving Pledge, providing an in-depth picture of the participants and their publicly known charitable activities. Profiles for the new signatories are now available.

Explore the Eye on the Giving Pledge»

-- Daniel Matz

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  • Transparency Talk, the GlassPockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Candid highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

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