Big Giver: Hunter Foundation

Jenna Pudelek finds out why the foundation is taking a proactive approach to 'venture philanthropy'

Malawi: the foundation works with the Clinton Foundation in Rwanda too
Malawi: the foundation works with the Clinton Foundation in Rwanda too

From investing tens of millions of pounds in sustainable development in Africa to tackling youth unemployment in Scotland, the Hunter Foundation does not shy away from big projects.

The foundation was set up in 1998 by the Scottish businessman and entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter after he sold his first business and set aside a reported £10m to invest in educational and entrepreneurial projects in his home country.

It counts Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York - one of America's oldest, largest and most influential philanthropic trusts - as one of its trustees.

The Hunter Foundation is further embedded in America's philanthropic tradition through its work with the Clinton Foundation in Malawi and Rwanda, in which it has invested a reported $25m (£15.9m).

The foundation rarely funds unsolicited applications. Ewan Hunter, the chief executive of the foundation, says: "We are a proactive organisation - we find projects rather than wait for applications."

Hunter (no relation) explains its philosophy of "venture philanthropy" as using investment pledges to leverage funds from other sources to maximise impact.

The foundation's work in the UK focuses on what Hunter calls "enterprise education" and investing in young people not in education, employment or training.

Most of its investment goes to Scotland, although the foundation has reportedly invested £1m in both Comic Relief and Children in Need.

"We're working in partnerships with the government in Scotland," Ewan Hunter says. "We take some risks that it can't. If we prove these risks have done the right thing, it will continue to fund the project."

The foundation has invested £50m in charitable projects since its inception. But Hunter remains tight-lipped about how much is in the pot, saying only that there is "a few million" and the foundation requests funding when it is needed. He says Sir Tom is "wholly committed to investing the majority of his wealth in the foundation".

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