Collaboration, innovation and community spirit – how place-based schemes are revitalising local philanthropy

The report of the largest study of place-based giving schemes in England was launched today, commissioned by the Office for Civil Society, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The research uncovered a large and growing number of place-based giving schemes across England, and highlights the success of place-based schemes as part of the landscape of charitable giving in the UK. Thirteen case studies reveal a huge amount of collaborative working going on between funders and other organisations which span across the private, public and third sectors, including local councils, local and metro mayors, independent grant-making foundations, businesses and local residents.

Place-based giving schemes in England currently include 21 London Borough Place-based Giving Schemes; 43 Community Foundations; 69 giving circles; plus a plethora of other forms.
It is clear that there is a high degree of disparity in terms of the level of development of local philanthropy ecosystems; and where there are existing place-based giving schemes within these ecosystems; they differ greatly in approach, scale and maturity.


Author of the report, Dr Catherine Walker of The Researchery, says: ‘It was a real eye-opener to see the number and variety of place-based schemes happening all over the country, and I’m thrilled that on the back of this research the government has announced, as part of the new Civil Society Strategy, a new pot of money to help more place-based schemes develop.’

In perhaps the only example of genuinely new government money being released to the sector by the in the Civil Society Strategy, it was announced that over £750,000 will be invested before 2020 in the growth of place-based giving schemes, to support civic philanthropy.

The Civil Society Strategy says that: “This funding will support areas to develop schemes that bring together local funders, philanthropists and businesses with civil society organisations and residents, to tackle local needs in a collaborative way.”

The phrase ‘place-based giving scheme’ has been employed in this research to describe a multitude of schemes operating in defined geographical areas. The terminology and definitional differentiation within this space is quite nuanced and still developing, since there are multiple forms which are very much shaped by local circumstances and different approaches. The loose definition adopted by the research was schemes that involve bringing together resources to benefit the community in a collaborative way in a defined geographic location with the intention of tackling local issues in a new way. Beyond that, approaches ranged from those resembling asset-based community development, those doing ‘systems change’, and localised grant-making, to giving schemes intended to corral local donations.

Place-based schemes face a number of challenges. A wide range of interviewees were asked as part of the research about the challenges faced in setting up and growing a place-based giving scheme, and suggestions for potential solutions to overcoming these challenges. Across the spectrum of different place-based schemes the most frequently-mentioned factors were practical considerations first and foremost, with funding taking centre stage.

Interviewees mentioned the importance of both seed funding and ongoing core cost funding, in part to overcome capacity issues and to fund a dedicated development worker. Other challenges faced included building partnerships: with funders, including corporates, and the local community; building a reputation and track record; evaluating impact; establishing and communicating a brand; and avoiding unhelpful competition with already established local charities.

Civic Philanthropy

The research also looked at civic philanthropy programmes supported by local mayors. There is currently renewed interest in how the historically-philanthropic role of Mayor can be revived and revitalised to encourage greater giving in the landscape of 21st century Britain. The research found that while there is currently some partnership working and some collaboration between place-based funders and schemes, perhaps most notably with Community Foundations, there is considerable scope for more, and a role for greater collaboration with place-based schemes in many mayoral functions.

Rhodri Davies, Head of Policy at the Charities Aid Foundation, who provided policy insight for the report, said: “The obvious enthusiasm for the idea of a renewed culture of civic philanthropy is great to see. And the introduction of new forms of local political power such as directly-elected mayors offers real opportunities to move this agenda forward. If we can use new place-based models and approaches to harness more giving, it could play a huge role in reinvigorating towns and cities around the UK, and helping them to prepare for the challenges and opportunities the future will bring.”

The future of place-based giving schemes

Among interviewees, there was a strong desire to see more place-based giving being developed, as long as they aren’t seen as a ‘magic bullet’ with which to solve all the country’s ills. The vast majority felt very strongly that there isn’t and shouldn’t be a single model for place-based giving because by its very definition it needs to be tailored to the particular place it is based in. This means that each scheme has slightly different needs.

Finally, the research suggests that there is far greater potential to harness people’s sense of identity and community to drive far more locally-focussed charitable giving around the country. As many have commented, the recent referendum on ‘Brexit’ has shown that place matters very much to people in Britain, and the schemes outlined in this report have shown how a sense of place can be utilised to the greater good. While place-based charitable initiatives are not a new concept, a renaissance of thinking around place-based giving clearly has potential benefits for all.

Link to report

Researchery 2018: Place-based giving schemes in England

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