'Philanthropy fund' pilot goes way beyond target

A pilot scheme offering aspiring philanthropists the chance to build personal charitable funds slowly over time has exceeded its target by almost three times in less than a year.

Acorn Funds allow donors to invest a minimum of £1,000 a year in their own fund month by month, to mature after 15 years. When funds mature, donors can award grants to local projects.

Twenty-eight of the named charitable funds have been bought by individuals, families and anonymous donors since they were introduced last year by the Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. The foundation hopes the scheme will now expand.

"We had a target of 10, so to achieve 28 in less than a year is exciting," said Elizabeth Johnston, communications manager at the foundation. "People have a strong regional identity in the north east. There is a new generation of donors that feel personally responsible for their communities. They want to start giving at a young age, rather than wait to get legacies. We believe this is the next step in philanthropy."

The scheme was inspired by similar initiatives in the US. Named charitable funds from the foundation had previously required a minimum investment of £50,000.

If the donor is a standard-rate taxpayer, Gift Aid can be reclaimed on top of the donation, meaning they commit to a minimum of £65 a month.

Higher-rate taxpayers able to claim additional tax relief on their annual tax returns can invest a minimum of £50 a month.

Stephen Hammersley, chief executive of the Community Foundation Network, said: "We want to see the learning from the pilot spread across the network. Many of the existing schemes for more modest giving may start to look like the Acorn Fund idea."

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