The Foundation's income comes from the interest on its investments and it spends about £10 million on charitable activities each year. It is financially and politically independent and is governed by a board of trustees who meet four times a year.
The Foundation makes grants for research and innovation projects in several areas:
It also has an Open Door programme for exceptional projects outside these areas.
The Foundation also funds programmes designed to increase research capacity in science and social science. Each year it funds over 1,000 Nuffield Research Placements to give hands on research experience to 16- and 17-year-olds studying STEM subjects.
Together with the Institute for Fiscal Studies the Nuffield Foundation funded a proposal for a revision of the British tax system. The research project was headed by Nobel laureate Sir James Mirrlees. The Nuffield Foundation is also funding Our World In Data, a free web-publication to share quantitative social science with the general public. This publication is used in teaching in many universities and in media coverage of the long-term perspective on global development.
The Foundation has contributed to healthcare and medical research. It has a separate fund for investing in rheumatic disease research. This was bequeathed by Captain Oliver Bird in 1948. In recent years, this money has been used to fund PhD studentships. It also has a small dedicated fund for strengthening relationships between the UK and other Commonwealth countries.