Photo of front cover of the Being There report

Being There

Northern Rock Foundation’s approach to resourcing grant making

Being There was produced at the end of Northern Rock Foundation’s (NRF) 17 years of grant making. IVAR was engaged to help the Foundation explore the funding model that evolved during its lifetime with the hope that other charitable funders might benefit from this insight into how the Foundation’s approach worked. The report highlights important lessons about how a foundation can work collaboratively and creatively with its grantees and other partners to fulfil its mission. Our report is based on a series of conversations with the Foundation’s Programme Managers about their approach to funding and interviews with partners and grantees. We identify six hallmarks of the Foundation’s approach to grant-making:

  1. Getting the best out of relationships
  2. Focus
  3. Knowing your place
  4. Thinking first – knowledge and thoughtfulness
  5. Taking a lead and learning from experience
  6. Taking the long-term view

Finally, we provide five learning points for other trusts and foundations, including the importance of exercising judgement.

For NRF, the key question in grant making was: how can judgements about who, what and where to invest be as grounded, informed and legitimate as possible? Their commitment to integrity in grant making has required engagement, relationship-building and patience. There are important lessons here for trusts and foundations trying to develop processes that help them manage the inherent ‘unfairness’ of grant making.


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