Big Giver: David and Elaine Potter Foundation

Angela Seay, director of the foundation, tells Sophie Hudson that the organisation received 3,000 applications for funding last year

Angela Seay, director of the David and Elaine Potter Foundation
Angela Seay, director of the David and Elaine Potter Foundation

The David and Elaine Potter Foundation was set up by its namesakes in 1999, with David and Elaine using their personal fortune to build an endowment.

David, who founded the software company Psion in 1980, was in tenth position in a list of the top philanthropists in the UK in the Sunday Times Rich List 2011.

Angela Seay, director of the foundation, says it tends to give out between £1m and £1.7m in cash grants every year, sometimes from the interest on the endowment, and sometimes from additional funds given to the foundation by its founders.

It has five areas of interest: building strong civil societies, human rights, education, research and arts. Typically, between 30 and 40 organisations are funded each year, says Seay, and grants can range from £2,500 up to £1m a year.

Previous recipients have included Cambridge University, which received £2m for 2008 and 2009 combined, and Amnesty International, which received £132,971 between 2004 and 2009.

Until last year, the foundation invited unsolicited applications for funding, but Seay says it decided to stop doing so this year because of the huge volume of applications the foundation was receiving.

"We got 3,000 inquiries last year and all of them wanted a response, which we tried to do," she says. "We don't have any trouble finding organisations to fund."

Once the foundation does fund an organisation, Seay says, it does not expect "onerous" reporting. She says it expects charities to send through a report once a year but does not expect them to tailor this specifically to the foundation.

"We know they could be funded by a lot of foundations," she says. "If each one wants an individual report, that can be quite a burden on them."

Seay says that because foundations are well placed to take risks with their funding, they do not expect everything to go perfectly all the time.

"We expect charities will occasionally make mistakes," she says. "But we expect them to learn from those mistakes."

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