Reference Work Entry

International Encyclopedia of Civil Society

pp 37-38

Association of Charitable Foundations

  • Diana LeatAffiliated withCass Business School London, The City University

Address of Organization

Central House 14 Upper Woburn Place London WC1H 0AE UK www.​acf.​org.​uk


The Association of Charitable Foundations is the leading membership organization for foundations and grantmaking charities in the UK. It is based in London but holds various meetings and conferences in other parts of the UK.

Brief History

ACF held its inaugural meeting in 1989 attracting representatives of 80 foundations. The creation of ACF was led by a group of eight foundations, despite opposition and apathy by some others. Those opposed to ACF’s creation were concerned that an association would detract from the autonomy and individuality of foundations, that it would encourage bureaucracy – and that it was unnecessary. After a feasibility study the eight supporting foundations decided to create an experimental organization (with a review after three or four years) designed to bring together trustees and administrators “which could where necessary carry the weight of the foundations themselves into discussions with government; which would bring a professional staff to develop notions of good practice in grantmaking (much aired orally) into practical guidance for those running trusts; and which would improve public understanding of foundations and of philanthropy, assist prospective settlers, and develop international links” (ACF, 1992: 3).

Mission/Objectives/Focus Areas

On the back cover of its news magazine, Trust and Foundation News, ACF today describes its role today as providing “help and support for the distinctive role of foundations, while respecting –and protecting – their independence. Through its services ACF provides a framework in which members can learn from each other’s experience, explore matters of common concern and achieve good practice in grantmaking.” ACF also has a strong track record on representing the common interests of foundations to government, regulators, and the media.


ACF engages in a wide range of activities including a Professional Development Programme of “training” and development for grant-makers, as well as a series of special seminars on topics of current interest and concern to foundations; it runs conferences and special events and publishes studies and reports as well as a quarterly magazine – Trust and Foundation News – and a regular briefing paper on recent developments in the foundation world and in government. In addition ACF provides individual support to members and runs a series of Issue Based Networks (IBNs) on a variety of topics determined by members; the Woburn Place Collaborative – a group of funders committed to issues of social justice and environmental sustainability – is also administered by ACF. Philanthropy UK is a project of ACF to promote giving and is a leading resource for free and impartial advice to aspiring philanthropists. Philanthropy UK also publishes a quarterly free online newsletter. In recent years ACF has been increasingly involved in representing foundations in discussions with government and has been influential in gaining recognition of the special needs and interests of grantmaking foundations (previously treated as no different from operating charities). ACF maintains close links with other associations of foundations in Europe and throughout the world.

Structure and Governance

ACF currently has over 300 members. ACF is governed by 15 trustees elected by the membership at the Annual General Meeting, and 8.4 FTE staff including 2 working for Philanthropy UK.


ACF’s annual revenues of approximately £600,000 are secured predominantly from membership subscriptions and supporting grants from members, approximately £70,000 from sponsorships, and earned income.

Major Accomplishments/Contributions

In 20 years ACF has moved from being a “minority” organization to an established part of the UK philanthropic landscape. It has been instrumental in changing the way in which foundations are perceived and perceive themselves, raised the profile and level of understanding of foundations within government and legislation, and contributed to the transparency and development of foundation thinking and practices. In these ways ACF has contributed to public benefit, to grant seekers and to grantmakers.


Foundations, Grantmaking

Umbrella Organizations

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
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