Big Giver: Indigo Trust

Fran Perrin, the founder of the trust, tells Sophie Hudson she is on the look-out for innovative IT projects

Fran Perrin
Fran Perrin

As a member of the Sainsbury family, Fran Perrin grew up surrounded by philanthropic work. This inspired her to set up the Indigo Trust in 1999, when she was just 21 years of age. The trust supports technology projects to help disadvantaged people and is part of the Sainsbury Family Charity Trusts, which is made up of 18 grant-making trusts set up by members of the Sainsbury family.

"I was brought up with the idea that if you are lucky in life, then you have a responsibility to share that good fortune," she says.

Perrin set the trust up using her own money as an endowment. She says it is now self-sustaining, and generally gives out in grants the interest that is generated - about £500,000 a year. Grants are typically worth between £10,000 and £20,000 a year, but they do vary.

"We're still experimenting," says Perrin. "We are trying not to make really big mistakes."

The trust funds projects in Africa, although some of the programmes are run by organisations that are based elsewhere, including in the UK.

It mainly funds projects that use information technology in an innovative way. For example, one uses text messaging to report human rights abuses; another uses texts to give people information on healthcare.

"We don't have a formal paperwork process," Perrin says of its grants application process. "We suggest organisations get in touch informally first to test their ideas and see if we are interested in theory. We don't want to waste their time."

She says one of the main problems is that organisations often say what they want to do but do not show how they will put their ideas into action.

"How you're going to do it is almost as important as the idea itself," she says.

Perrin says that once the trust funds an organisation it asks for a lot of qualitative feedback and encourages organisations to share any concerns.

"We've sometimes gone back and changed or even increased the grant because the organisation has been honest with us," she says. "We can help more when they are honest."

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