Decision makers at the Garfield Weston Foundation often put money into areas that are hard to fundraise for. Recently, the trustees agreed a £400,000 grant to the Salvation Army for its work with victims of trafficking in the UK because they felt its support could make a real difference.
Philippa Charles, director of the grant maker, which last year gave out a record £46m, says the organisation benefits from having highly engaged trustees, who see every application and are descendants of the founder Willard Garfield Weston, who created Associated British Foods.
The foundation was set up in 1958 and was endowed with the family-owned company shares, making it the ultimate controller of the business, which owns the clothing retailer Primark and the food brands Twinings and Ryvita. It has worldwide sales of £11bn. The foundation funds an average of 1,500 charities annually. It works in areas including education, community, welfare, youth, health, the arts and the environment.
Charles says it supports charities and projects with grants ranging from £1,000 to more than £1m. "The important thing is that they are well run and well managed, and the projects are appropriate for the size of the organisation," she says.
"If it is not sensibly run we would be concerned. It is as much about the quality of the people running it as about the project and the impact it is intended to have."
Examples of recent grants given by the foundation include £250,000 to the National Trust towards the restoration of Knole House in Kent, and £500,000 to York University for research into disease-resistant plants for food and medicine.
Last year, it was able to give a record amount in grants because of the success of ABF, and it is aiming to give a similar amount in 2012.
"Our trustees are conscious that the economic situation has especially tough consequences for the poorest and most disadvantaged," Charles says. "We are looking in particular at welfare and are delighted to see applications from small organisations that really need our help at the moment."