What we do
The Wolfson Foundation is an independent, grant-making charity, based in central London but funding across the UK. We have a wide range of funding programmes and activities. Our fundamental aim, however, is to improve the civic health of society mainly through education and research.
Funding for Places and People
Around 95% of our funding is allocated to the UK. The majority of these grants are for capital infrastructure, i.e. buildings (new build and refurbishment) and equipment. We also provide a small number of education and research grants for individuals. These are, however, closed programmes which are administered and/or co-funded by our expert partner organisations.
The Foundation’s international funding is proactive, and we do not invite speculative applications from outside of the UK.
Our aim is to promote ‘excellence’ in each category/field we fund and our decision-making is rigorous, with funding being provided on the basis of expert peer review.
We are particularly keen to encourage applications from parts of the UK where we have traditionally have received fewer applications or where few other sources of funding are available.
Grants are often made to act as a catalyst – so that our funds can lever additional support and help to attract funding to areas that may otherwise be under-resourced.
We pride ourselves on a staff team who are friendly and helpful. We aim for as much transparency in our policies and processes as possible – and a relatively light touch application process. All applications (including unsuccessful ones) receive a formal response. The experience of our applicants is important to us, and we commission independent reviews to ensure that we understand the experience and perspective of our applicants and partners.
Over £900 million (£1.9 billion in real terms) has been awarded in grants to more than 11,000 projects, from all over the UK. Recent examples range from Porthcurno in south-west Cornwall to the Shetland Islands.
Grants-plus, partnerships and professional engagement
Many funders now take part in activities beyond their traditional, core business – including policy and research work, lobbying of government, partnership building and direct engagement with recipients (such as networking events). The Wolfson Foundation is no exception but high quality grant-making remains central to all that we do. This is, not least, because any authority to work on some of these wider activities is based on rigorous decision-making and high quality relationships with our recipients.
Wherever possible, we make the reports or research which we commission publically accessible.
Partnerships lie at the heart of our grant-making. Across all of our funding areas, we seek to collaborate with other funders or expert bodies. Recent examples include joint funding programmes with the Royal Society, the Wellcome Trust, the British Academy, English Heritage, the DCMS (a central government department) and Hospice UK.
We are keen to share experiences with others as part of a wider philanthropic community and the Wolfson Foundation is a member of a number of forums, notably the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF). Our Chief Executive currently chairs Foundations Forum – the national chief executive network.
- The traditions of the Wolfson Foundation, I think, are valuable for all of us. The idea of operating in partnership … and that through different elements of a healthy society – medical health, education, and a proper engagement with the past and with the world around us – we can create the kind of citizen that we want. Not just health in the medical sense but health in the civic understanding: access to education, access to knowledge, but above all understanding of how we might function together.
Neil MacGregor OM (former Director of the British Museum)