Director’s report

Developing our impact

In a year when we marked a major anniversary it is particularly pertinent that we have been considering our impact and performance against the strategic aims of the last few years. This year the completion of a major impact assessment has revealed much about how far we have come, and will be helpful in thinking about where next we might go. The next phase for the Foundation will be under new leadership so in this, my final director’s report, it is useful to acknowledge the significance of the Foundation’s values. As the pages on the anniversary and those devoted to our work over the past year indicate, these have been an invaluable guide for the choices we make about how the Foundation works.

Changing relationships

While the values remain consistent, we do of course need to be prepared to work in different ways as circumstances and strategy dictate. We have given much thought to the style of relationship we seek to have with organisations, whether through our Open Grants schemes or Special Initiatives. We produced new advice on this last year and have developed new resources to support applicants this year. But we have also begun to think about the various types of relationships we have. We carry out increasing amounts of work that we label ‘grants plus’, such as bringing organisations together to enable shared learning. In thinking about the different approaches we can take to grants, their evaluation and the learning that can be gained from them, we are moving towards a more varied and nuanced suite of relationship types.

So while the ethos in our grant-making to learn by doing remains constant, the ways in which we approach this have been developing. One significant area that we have been working on this year has been a programme to build resilience in organisations through practical support. ‘Fitter for Purpose’ was set up to respond to the tough times many of our grantees are facing, but also reflects a strategic aim to improve the capacity of organisations we support. We subcontracted the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (and via NCVO its sister organisations elsewhere in the UK) to provide tailored support from specialist consultants in different areas of organisational development, such as governance, strategy or action planning. We are running the scheme as a pilot, supporting 31 current or past grantees in three cohorts. An ongoing evaluation will inform future decisions on whether and how we will seek to carry forward this activity.

Impact and learning

Our impact assessment exercise culminated in the publication of ‘Assessing Impact’ in October 2012. Based on a framework categorising observed outcomes from completed grants and Special Initiatives between 2007–12, it charts an ‘Impact map’, which provides an overview of how we have delivered change at our three target levels of individuals and communities, organisations, and policy and practice. The report provides considerable evidence that we have met the aims of the strategic plan that we published in November 2006. The process we developed for looking at our impact has attracted considerable interest amongst other foundations in the UK and abroad.

Learning remains an important theme of our work, as we continue to strive to learn from the work we support, and as we seek to share what we learn. We jointly funded research, published this year, on approaches to learning and evaluation by European foundations, carried out by the European Foundation Centre.

Notable examples this year of us sharing our own learning include the production of toolkits for the new Language Futures scheme – an offshoot of our earlier Learning Futures Special Initiative 1. The Social Justice programme’s Right Here initiative 2, a partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, ran a showcase event 1
at which four youth-led projects shared the approaches developed for providing mental health services to 16–25 year olds.


In January we welcomed fellows from the Clore Cultural and Social Leadership programmes and staff from the Esmée Fairbairn and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundations, who joined PHF staff and trustees to deliberate on the theme of community engagement. Around 60 people took part in the two-day event at our offices. A Clore Fellow, John Orna-Ornstein from the British Museum, worked on a secondment with us during early 2013, exploring innovation in a sample of our grants. Niyati Mehta, Arts Manager with the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust in India, has spent time at the Foundation undergoing mentoring as part of her Clore fellowship. Beyond the Clore programmes we include funding within some grants for leadership development, particularly for new leaders of smaller organisations. We also contributed to the Cabinet Office review by Dame Mary Marsh into third sector leadership and skills.

While we seek to have impact on practices, we also seek to affect policy. The programme reports within this Yearbook each contain examples of coalitions or other forums through which we seek to effect change at this level. In January, eight trustees wrote to The Times to express concern about Department for Education proposals for the new English Baccalaureate that excluded arts subjects from the core set of subjects against which schools would be measured. They argued that the consequences of this exclusion, which has been seen to reduce provision in many schools, would have a disproportionate effect on disadvantaged children. The letter encouraged the ongoing campaign from the Cultural Learning Alliance 3, of which we are a founder member. The Department’s plans are now under review.

Strategy development

We continue to work to improve our understanding of our own performance as a grant-maker. This year we repeated the Grantee Perception Report exercise that we first undertook with the Center for Effective Philanthropy in 2009. This time, we also ran an applicants’ survey to learn about perceptions among those we have not supported. As we go to press the final results are not yet in but we are encouraged by high participation rates. The results will be invaluable to the Foundation’s next strategic plan.

Taking that work forward with the trustees will be Martin Brookes, whose appointment as the next director of the Foundation we announced in March. A former Chief Executive of New Philanthropy Capital, with which the Foundation has worked on a number of projects during the last few years, he brings a strong track record within the philanthropic sector. I wish him every success in the post.

Other staff changes this year included welcoming Eve Dallas as grants officer in our Social Justice team. We said goodbye to Gillian Goode, grants officer in our Arts team, and wish her well in her future career. We thanked Denise Mellion and Julia Mirkin for covering the posts of staff on maternity leave (in each case the second time covering the same role). Our programme advisors Roger Graef, Rob Berkeley and Jennifer Izekor stood down this year and we welcomed Fiona Dawe and Benita Refson. Roderick Jack joined as an advisor to the Investment Committee.

On a personal note I wish to record my gratitude to Jane Hamlyn and the trustees, past and present, who have so ably guided my work
for the last nine years. My thanks also go to my colleagues on the staff, our consultants and advisors, with whom it has been a pleasure and a privilege to work to deliver the mission of the Foundation: helping people realise their potential and to enjoy a better quality of life.

Robert Dufton


  • 1 See the Education and Learning report, and Gladesmore Open Grants case study
  • 2 See the Social Justice Special Initiatives
  • 3 See the Arts report