Big Giver: Mike Clare, Clare Foundation

Mike Clare of the Clare Foundation tells our reporter Sophie Hudson how he set up a charity 'hub' on a Buckinghamshire estate

Mike Clare
Mike Clare

The philanthropist Mike Clare set up the Clare Foundation in October 2009 with an endowment of £5m, after selling the Dreams bed superstore chain for a nine-figure sum.

The foundation bought a 50,000 sq ft estate in Buckinghamshire with some of the money to create a ‘charity hub’, where not-for-profit organisations can merge their back-office activities and learn to become more efficient.

Clare says the main objective of the hub is to help local charities become more businesslike in the way they operate.

"In the world of business, people are quite competitive and aggressive," he says. "I feel like in the charity world they can be honest and kind, but sometimes can’t negotiate things such as rent or a discount because they are too nice to ask.

"I got frustrated with this, so I decided to set up the hub."

Clare says he plans eventually to open more hubs elsewhere in the country, once the first one has been running successfully for a couple of years.

His philanthropic work extends far beyond the foundation, though.

Clare also works more personally with a number of other charities, including as a fellow of the Prince’s Trust and as a patron of the Child Bereavement Charity and the Retail Trust

He says charities are welcome to become involved with the hub project, but when it comes to his more personal philanthropic work he always chooses charities he feels he has some kind of a connection with.

"My father died when I was 12, so I feel I have a real connection with the Child Bereavement Charity," he says. "With the Retail Trust, Dreams was a retail business, so there’s another point of relevance," he says. "I wouldn’t want to get involved if I didn’t also believe in it."

Next year he is planning to set up another grant-making organisation, which he plans to call Family Angels.

He hopes to fund the project personally with about £10,000 every month. The broad plan is that five struggling families will be chosen by the project each month to receive about £2,000 to help ease them out of a crisis.

The families will need to be recommended as honest and hard-working by someone from the local community. The only thing that will be asked of them is that once they are out of trouble they give half the grant amount to another family in crisis, although this will not be a contractual obligation.

"I don’t need any more money, and don’t want to sit on a beach for the rest of my life," says Clare. "I just enjoy helping people."

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