Announcing our new guidance on exploring the origins of foundation wealth 
15 April 2024

ACF's director of policy, practice and research, Catherine Seymour, introduces our new toolkit and a launch event for ACF members. The toolkit is available here

In March 2024, the Church of England’s charity investment arm announced it will build a £1 billion fund to address its role in the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved African peoples, having reflected that its previous £100m pledge was “not enough”.   

This was shortly followed by a statement from Buckingham Palace confirming support for a research project into the monarchy’s involvement in the historical trade in enslaved people.

These recent announcements come after similar work by other significant UK institutions over the last few years: the Bank of England, and many universities, charities and museums.

Exploring and acknowledging wealth links with historical practices of enslavement and taking steps to "make amends" is no longer seen as an unexpected or unusual course of action. It is now a mainstream practice.

A new toolkit for ACF members 
Over the last 12 months, in my role as director of policy, practice and research at ACF, I have been developing a new resource for our members (which includes over 450 trusts and foundations that together give grants of around £3.7 billion a year). This new resource was a response to member demand; from foundations interested in exploring their wealth origins for connections to historical enslavement practices.

This new toolkit will be available to our members on 29 April 2024 and all members are welcome to attend our online launch event the same day, to learn more about this topic.

Like most good things, this toolkit came about because a bunch of generous people poured their collective energy and wisdom into making it happen. You know who you are - thank you! You can find out more about this group of foundation leaders and subject matter experts who helped create the toolkit, and hear from some of them at our launch event. 

Acknowledging history to understand the present  
Possibly the most important thing I’ve learned from this group is that acknowledging the historical context of wealth accumulation is essential to understand today’s racial justice movements. Such movements seek justice, redress and repair for the structural racism ingrained in our society. This takes the form of inequalities in wealth, access to land, education, housing, employment and the criminal justice system. These are systemic issues that many of our members are working to end.

Due to the sheer volume of wealth accumulated in Britain at the height of the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved people, a lot of philanthropic money from this time is likely to be connected to profits from trafficking of enslaved people. Even wealth donated for charitable purposes much later may have its origins in enslavement.

Practical guidance  
Our new resource sets out the historical and present-day context in which many foundations and other institutions are choosing to research and publish connections between wealth origins and money from enslavement and make changes as a result. It gives practical guidance for foundation boards to hold conversations, understand the relevance for their organisation and make decisions about the right path for them. You’ll also find detailed advice on how to commission the research work, suggestions for how to communicate your intentions internally and externally, and an overview of actions you might want to consider as a result.

Throughout the toolkit we offer examples of work and reflections from ACF members who are already working in this space, including advice on how to support your staff and trustees (and yourself) during your own journey.

Navigating topics of critical importance
With such a variety of foundations in our membership, we recognise that undertaking new historical research projects won’t be relevant or feasible for all.

But we know that wealth links between institutions and historical practices of enslavement is a fundamentally critical topic for some of our members, whether they are actively engaged in research work or starting to explore the relevance for their mission.

Our role at ACF is to support our members to steer through critical issues. One way we do this is by leveraging the experiences and insights from our broad membership and combining these with learning from comparable sectors. Our intention is that our new toolkit will help our members feel better equipped and more confident to open conversations and make informed decisions aligned to their mission and needs.


Our origins of wealth toolkit is available to ACF members on our website here. All members are invited to our launch event on the same day. You can find more information and book a place here.

Our toolkit was commissioned with funding from Barrow Cadbury Trust.