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Jake Ferguson & Vanessa Thomas, Baobab Foundation: Creating a new kind of philanthropic funder


In this episode Rhod talks to Jake Ferguson and Vanessa Thomas, two of the Committee members of the Baobab Foundation – a new member-led endowed grantmaker that is seeking to address issues of systemic racism and intersectional injustice in the UK.


  • How did the Baobab Foundation come about?
  • What has been the progress so far?
  • Has the momentum behind addressing issues of racial justice that we saw in the nonprofit world following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 been maintained?
  • Why have Black and minority-led organisations historically lost out when it comes to philanthropic funding?
  • How is Baobab foundation trying to shift power to those who would traditionally have been seen as the recipients of philanthropy?
  • Why has Baobab decided not to adopt a traditional charitable structure?
  • How is Baobab trying to influence the way other funders work?
  • Does the philanthropy sector in the UK have a diversity problem?
  • Can Baobab play a longer-term role in offering a route into grantmaking for more people from Black and minority communities?
  • Why is building an endowment such an important aim of Baobab?
  • Can Baobab play a useful role as an intermediary in overcoming some of the barriers in relationships between more traditional/risk-averse funders and grassroots organisations/social movements?
  • Are there challenges in trying to bring together different types of knowledge (e.g. lived experience and professional expertise)? How do you navigate these?
  • Why was it important for Baobab to adopt a horizonatal, non-hierarchical structure?
  • How can measurement be a useful tool for organisations that receive funding, and not just a means to reinforce the dominance of the funder?
  • How can donors, funders and CSOs get involved with Baobab Foundation?

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