Philanthropy House,
Philanthropy House, courtesy of The Community Foundation for Tyne & Wear and Northumberland

Charity Details

Full Name: Community Foundation Serving  Tyne & Wear and Northumberland
Founded: 1988
Type: Community
Where Operates: Tyne & Wear, Northumberland, North East England
Headquarters: Newcastle, NE3 1DD
Charity No: 700510

History and Activities

The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland is the single most important philanthropic organisation in North East England. It is the UK’s largest community foundation ranked by size of endowment, standing at nearly £79 million at the end of 2016/17. The Foundation has grown considerably over the past decade, its cumulative grant-making total passing the £100 million mark in 2016. It aims to increase its grant-making to £10 million per annum by 2025, supported by an endowment in excess of £100 million.

Like all community foundations, that for Tyne & Wear and Northumberland performs a sophisticated agency function, mediating between donors, past and present, and the beneficiaries of their philanthropy. Many donors establish funds to award grants to frontline charities in consultation with community foundation expert advisors. The advisors perform critical due diligence functions, put together grant packages from different funds, and add value through their insider knowledge of the third sector. Some donors, especially those who make unrestricted or endowment estate gifts leave it to the Foundation to manage their funds without restriction. All funds are aggregated for investment management purposes. The attraction of community foundations for donors lies in the much-increased likelihood that their generosity will be rewarded with good results. The attraction for beneficiaries, in addition to the funding available, is expert advice given freely by trusted colleagues with a common purpose.

The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland has blazed a trail within the UK community foundation movement. It was the brainchild of the Quaker businessman-academic, Grigor McClelland, who became its first chairman when launched in October 1988 with seed corn funding of £30,000 a year for three years from the Baring Foundation, supplemented by £10,000 a year from four local trusts. George Hepburn was recruited as chief executive, leading the Foundation for 21 years to 2009, when Rob Williamson, the present chief executive, was appointed. George had the unenviable task of selling what was then the alien (imported from the US) concept of a community foundation to an initially sceptical region. It was helpful therefore to win the backing of the Tyne and Wear Development Board and the Goldsmith Company who agreed to channel their grants through the foundation. The initial strategy was to attract new donors through symbolic association with high profile local benefactors. To this end, William Leech, a wealthy property developer, and novelist Catherine Cookson, were named as patrons. Sir Ralph Carr-Ellison, Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, hosted dinners to attract potential donors.

Critical at this early stage, when credibility was not assured, was the support given by the Mott Foundation and the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) in the form of endowment building challenge grants, each offering to match pound for pound donations made locally. The scheme was launched by Viscount Whitelaw and, by the end of 1992, an endowment fund of £3 million had been established, thereby ensuring the future of the foundation. It has since gone from strength to strength by demonstrating its worth day by day to donors and beneficiaries. This has led to major national charities like Henry Smith, Garfield Weston and Comic Relief using it as their vehicle of choice for distributing money to good causes in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear.

In 2016/17, the Foundation added £2.6 million to its endowment, established 14 new funds, and made 1,509 grants totalling £6.83 million. As a thought leader, committed to independent research and evidence-based evaluations of philanthropic needs and impacts, it commissioned the latest regional Third Sector Trends Study and extended the coverage of Vital Signs, a rigorous analysis of how local communities are faring in terms of unemployment, health, housing, deprivation and other indicators of well-being. The disciplined yet imaginative leadership demonstrated by the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland continues to inspire generosity and commitment to the community. 

Vital Statistics (year to 31/03/2017)

Total Income:
Voluntary Income:
Investment Income:
Total Expenditure (TE):
Grants to Beneficiaries (GR):
GR as % of TE:
Investments at Year End:



Charities Commission. (2018). Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, Annual financial statements 2017, Available here (Accessed: 20/09/2018).

Howells, C. (2009). The Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland: The First Twenty Years, unpublished.

The Community Foundation for Tyne Wear and Northumberland. (2017). Community Foundation Yearbook 2017, Available here (Accessed: 20/12/2017).

Wainwright, M. (2013). Grigor McClelland obituary, The Guardian. Available here (Accessed: 21/08/2018).