Carol Mack, Deputy Chief Executive of the Association of Charitable Foundations, looks back to her childhood in Derby to find out what charity means to her.
Growing up in Derby, charity seemed distant – something happening elsewhere, overseas, not here, not close to home.
Yet, unknown to me, charities were playing a large part in my young life: I made my stage debut at Derby Arts Festival (a charity), was an eager member of Mickleover Guides (ditto) and pupil at Ravensdale Junior School (where the Parents, Teachers and Friends Association is a charity). I didn’t think of these organisations as charities – I took them for granted – and they are all still there, years on, enriching civic life.
My work has since taken me away from Derby, down the M1 to London, where I’ve become very familiar with one particular type of charity that often goes unnoticed, but whose work is also woven into the fabric of our lives – the charitable foundation.
“Large and small, seen and unseen, charities touch every aspect of our lives; without them our city and our society would be immeasurably diminished.”Carol Mack
Foundations are charities that fulfil their objectives by supporting other charities, providing various types of funding and other support. There are about 12,000 foundations in the UK, some of which date back as far as the eleventh century. Collectively they give around £2.5 billion every year to a wide range of charitable causes. Although that sounds like a huge sum of money, it is still only about 0.4% of government expenditure. Yet despite their relative size, foundations punch far above their weight; supporting innovation, taking risks, and backing causes that may otherwise struggle to gain attention.
In the decade I’ve spent at the Association of Charitable Foundations supporting these amazing institutions, I’ve been struck by the variety and vibrancy of the work they have funded: everything from peace-building in Northern Ireland through to protecting water voles, from tackling educational inequalities to preserving church buildings.
When I first heard that there was a database showing the number of grants made in a particular location over the past decade or so, the first thing I did, which I imagine is the first thing many people do, was to type my hometown into the search engine. It was inspiring to see the variety and creativity of the projects supported in Derby: from the Multi-Faith Centre at the University of Derby to the Alternatives Activity Centre for adults with learning difficulties.
Large and small, seen and unseen, charities touch every aspect of our lives; without them our city and our society would be immeasurably diminished.
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