United Kingdom
Source of information
Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF)

In the UK there is no specific legal form for foundations required by law. In daily language within a charitable context the words ‘foundation’ and ‘trust’ are interchangeable and virtually synonymous, and both words are used pretty equally. All charitable foundations are trusts, that is, they are managed by trustees. A foundation is a trust whose income derives from the endowment of land or invested capital.

Number of foundations

Estimated 12,753public-benefit foundations (2014/15) Source: NCVO’s UK Civil Society Almanac 2017

Pool of assets

Approx. €70 billion (2015 - based on 300 largest foundations - Source: ACF’s Foundation Giving Trends 2016)

Total expenditure

Approx. €4,8 billion (2015 - based on 300 largest foundations - Source: Giving Trends Top 300 Foundation Grantmakers 2015 Report (ACF) )

More on the sector
Further reading
EUFORI STUDY : European Foundations for Research and Innovation : United Kingdom Country Report, European Union, 2015.
Family Foundation: Giving Trends 2014, Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF), Cass Business School, Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP), Pears Foundation, 2014
Family Foundation: Giving Trends 2012, ESRC Research Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, 2012 (and the previous reports)
Private Foundations, Thirteenth Report of Session 2010–12, House of Commons, International Development Committee, 2012
Beyond money: a study of funding plus in the UK, Institute for Voluntary Action Research, 2011
Family Foundation: Giving Trends 2011, ESRC Research Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, 2011 (and the 2010 report)
Revealing the foundations: A guide to corporate foundations in England and Wales, CAF, Cabinet Office and The SMART Company, 2010
Natural Philanthropists: Findings of the Family Business Philanthropy and Social Responsibility Inquiry, Institute for Family Business, Community Foundation Network, 2009
The impact of the recession on charitable giving in the UK, CAF and NCVO, 2009
Building bridges: Philanthropy strengthening communities, Policy Exchange, 2008
Grant-making by UK Trusts and Charities, Association of Charitable Foundations and CAF (Charities Aid Foundation), 2007
Going global: A review of international development funding by UK trusts and foundations, New Philanthropy Capital, 2007 (The Nuffield Foundation has commissioned the CGAP to undertake an update of Going Global. The findings have been published at the end of 2011.)
The changing nature of corporate responsibility – what role for corporate foundations?, CAF and The SMART Company, 2007
For the Common Good? The Changing Role of Civil Society in the UK and Ireland, Carnegie UK Trust, 2006
Generosity versus altruism: Philanthropy and charity in the US and UK, Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics, 2002