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Trusts and foundations


This continues to be a period of very rapid change. Cuts in public expenditure, shifts in social welfare policies and wider socio-economic changes are having a profound and lasting effects on the operating environment. Valued organisations face an uncertain future and many are struggling to adapt, both in terms of capacity and capability.

There is a serious risk that, without careful, sensitive, targeted attention and support from independent grant-makers, organisations may struggle to survive or stay true to their missions. This, in turn, could seriously weaken and damage a core ingredient of civil society.

  • Responding to rapid change

  • Moving practice forward

  • Sharing learning

Nine themes

Spotlight on funders

Strategic support


How are we doing? Barrow Cadbury Trust

Sara Llewellin, Chief executive at Barrow Cadbury trust shares her experience of the strategic review process


Barrow Cadbury Trust is a majority family governed foundation working on structural change for equality and social justice. Our roots are Quaker, although we are of all faiths and none. Most of our work is long-term and we use a wide range of evaluation and impact approaches. Last year, in advance of a review of our Strategic Framework, our board selected IVAR to investigate along the lines of “How are we doing?”


It quickly emerged that evaluating our impact was not the sensible use of the time or money. As IVAR told us, we do that pretty thoroughly ourselves. In dialogue, we settled on what we termed a ‘reflective review’ of our identity, relationships, distinctiveness and ways of working. Additionally, we asked IVAR to help us re-imagine how best to add value to Birmingham with relatively modest resources and from a London base.


The process of review was as important as the findings and I thoroughly recommend this rather unprescriptive and open approach to organisational appraisal. Through a series of structured interviews with trustees, staff, funded and other kinds of partners, the IVAR team built a picture that reflected our values, our identity and our distinctiveness. Critically, they found very strong values alignment between board, staff and partners, and identified this as probably a key feature determining our contribution to change. On our instruction, they also probed the areas we know could improve. “You are awfully fond of your paperwork, aren’t you?” and “We pick up a sense of hyperactivity”. Ouch! Importantly, they brought a fresh eye to our reflections, which reminded us of the old Quaker adage, “Don’t just do something, sit there!”


We work closely with funders to:

  • Gather evidence and insights about the voluntary sector

  • Inform strategic direction and navigate through change 

  • Act as a sounding board and ‘critical friend’

  • Directly support the organisations they fund individually and through programmes

  • Capture and embed learning

  • Develop proportionate, meaningful evaluation processes

  • Create opportunities to share and build on insights and move practice forward


Front cover image for Working in Place

Research reports:

Working in Place

Eliza Buckley, Ben Cairns, Marilyn Taylor

Front cover image for Making a difference


Making a difference

Eliza Buckley, Ben Cairns

The story of ten projects, in the words of those we have worked with.

Front cover image of Thinking about core funding


Thinking about... core funding

Ben Cairns, Chris Mills, Sarah Ridley

Learn more about IVAR