Big Giver: Hugh Davidson, H&S Davidson Trust

He gives to large international development charities' education projects, as Kaye Wiggins hears

Hugh Davidson founded the H&S Davidson Trust in 2004 with a £3m endowment that was made up of long-term savings and money from the sale of a marketing consultancy firm he had set up.

The trust gives money to Save the Children, Oxfam and Christian Aid to fund their education programmes in India, Vietnam and Ghana. It also funds local charity projects on the Isle of Man, where Davidson lives.

Davidson says that when he decided to set up the foundation he spent a lot of time researching philanthropy before he gave any money away.

"I went on a number of trips - to Vietnam, China, Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda, Thailand and India," he says. "To give overseas, you need to get out in the field, talk to people and find out what's going on."

Davidson decided the foundation's primary activity would be to facilitate education for children from poor families overseas. He wrote a one-page strategy outlining the foundation's criteria for choosing projects to fund.

These included clarity of objectives, likely impact, cost per beneficiary, sustainability and ease of measurement.

"Charities often pay too much attention to their activities and not enough to their outputs and results," he says. "My foundation is small and doesn't have any paid staff, so it's important to be terribly focused."

Davidson says he sent his strategy to a number of charities and asked them whether they were running any projects that he might be interested in. "I didn't have enough knowledge to work directly with smaller charities based overseas," he says.

"Save the Children, Oxfam and Christian Aid offered some exciting projects, so I asked for more details and ended up funding them."

The foundation invests between £30,000 and £40,000 a year in each of the overseas projects it funds, and always commits to three-year funding, provided its targets are met.

Charities that receive funding from the foundation must submit progress reports every six months, and Davidson visits each of the projects at least once a year. He says the foundation is unlikely to take on many new projects soon. "The worst thing you can do is be too thinly spread," he says.

The foundation gives out about 6 per cent of its original endowment each year, but Davidson is open to the idea of giving away the entire endowment in future. "This could happen in 10 or 20 years' time, depending on whether my sons decide to take over running the foundation," he says.

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