A key activity of the Trustees over the past year has been the development of our new strategic plan for 2017 – 2020. During that process, we have reflected on the significant progress the Trust has made over the last three years. Our intention was to put in place the building blocks that could enable the Trust to move forward into a longer term planning cycle, and we have been successful in revising our investment portfolio, developing our grant processes and introducing a package of non-financial support for our beneficiary charities.

In deciding what to do next, we wanted to hear first from the charities that we support, and we commissioned New Philanthropy Capital to speak to those working in the relevant sectors and write a report on each of our four themes. This exercise enabled us to engage directly with the beneficiary charities in a different way and helped us to develop new relationships. The reports have been shared widely amongst charities and other funders, and the feedback has been generally positive.

The findings have helped us set thematic priorities and they have also helped us identify two strategic priorities for the Trust. We will be better able to support charities if we know them and understand them better, so our first priority is to build stronger relationships with those charities. Charities will be better able to deliver their purpose if they work effectively with others, and our second priority will be to support charities to collaborate.

Part of the relationship building process will be continuing to develop our programme of monitoring visits. Over the past year, there has been a step change in the frequency and quality of the visits that are made. Trustees have been actively involved in that programme, and this has been of great value in ensuring that the board is aware of the work that we are funding and some of the challenges that are faced by charities.

We are aware that the Trust is well placed to bring people together, and to provide the resources that can support effective joint working. There are many opportunities for the Trust to fulfil this role – from informal introductions and sharing of information through to funding of partnership working. Supporting collaboration will be a core business of the Trust, and we will become more proactive in making it happen.

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