Big Giver: Rory Brooks, Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation

He tells Sophie Hudson why most of the money he donates to good causes has gone to Manchester University, where he once studied

Rory Brooks
Rory Brooks

Many years ago Rory Brooks moved to the US for a short period after getting married. One of the things that struck him while he was there was the relationship people maintained with the universities they attended long after graduation.

"That was absent in the UK," he says. "It wasn't part of people's lives after they had left."

On returning to the UK, Brooks set up MML Capital, a successful private equity business, and decided to start giving to good causes - most of which has gone to Manchester University, where he had once studied.

About six years ago, Brooks and his wife Elizabeth decided to set up a foundation: the Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation. "We were getting a lot of requests from charities and realised we didn't want to be scattered - we wanted a more focused approach," he says.

The largest proportion of funding has been awarded to Manchester University's Brooks World Poverty Institute, which studies world poverty.

So far, Brooks and his wife have personally donated more than £3m to the institute through the foundation. Brooks says his hope is that this research will eventually result in better policy and improved outcomes for people living in poverty.

The institute reports back to him officially twice a year, but unofficially he is in touch with it either weekly or monthly, depending on how much is going on at the time. He is not, however, involved with the actual academic research. "They are intelligent about it and realise that having an engaged benefactor is best," he says. "They understand that the next best gift will come from the person who has already given to them."

Brooks says he donates his time, as well as his money, to good causes. Among other roles, he is also an adviser to the Quintessentially Foundation, which was set up to improve the education, health and welfare of disadvantaged people, and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

"The charity sector often measures only monetary gifts," he says. "I believe there should be a balance sheet for time given as well."

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