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ACF identifies ‘five golden threads’ for effective foundations 

03 Dec 2020 News

Mission, knowledge, power, accountability and connection are key themes in making foundations more effective, according to the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF).

ACF published Five cross-cutting themes: Mission, Knowledge, Power, Accountability, Connection today, as part of its Stronger Foundations project, alongside a new tool based on what it has learned.

ACF has already published six thematic reports covering issues including diversity, equity and inclusion; impact and learning; and strategy and governance. 

Carol Mack, chief executive of ACF, said in the foreword to today’s report: “This cross-cutting report pulls out five of the most prominent themes that ran as golden threads throughout the Stronger Foundations findings, indicating that they are areas of key concern for foundations.” 

Five themes 


ACF underlined the importance of foundations understanding their mission, which “serves to give the foundation direction and purpose, as well as offering a public articulation on what the foundation seeks to achieve”. 


The report encourages foundations to have a “learning culture” which “gives boards and staff the time, confidence and skills to gain and apply insights, across funding practices, investments, impact, strategy and governance”. 


ACF encourages foundations to understand the power they have and carefully consider how they use it. 

“One of the most impactful ways a foundation can use its power is to share it, including through the diversity and representativeness of its board and staff,” it adds. 


ACF says a key part of accountability is operating transparently. 

“Only if a foundation is open, honest and communicative about its work can external audiences know enough about it to hold it to account effectively,” the report says. 


ACF urges foundations to understand the ecosystem they operate in to help them form collaborations and notes “collective efforts often leading to impact greater than the sum of its parts”. 

New self-assessment tool for foundations 

ACF has also launched a new self-assessment tool based on its 40 pillars of stronger practice. 

It hopes this will help foundations to reflect on their own performance and plan future actions.

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