Big Giver: Newman's Own Foundation

The foundation set up by the late actor and director Paul Newman has stuck to his principles, chief executive Robert Forrester tells Kaye Wiggins

The late Paul Newman's foundation gives the profits from his food company to charity
The late Paul Newman's foundation gives the profits from his food company to charity

Actor and director Paul Newman, who died in 2008, set up the Newman's Own Foundation in 2005 to give away all of the profits from Newman's Own, the food company he founded in 1982.

The star of movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting was widely lauded for his philanthropic work with his company, which began with the actor and an author friend making salad dressing at home and grew into a hugely successful organic foods business.

Now the foundation, which is based in the US, gives between £700,000 and £800,000 a year to charities in the UK and Ireland. Most of the grants are of less than £10,000, although the foundation has not ruled out making larger grants. About 80 per cent of grants awarded by the foundation are one-off payments.

The foundation normally focuses on sustainable development projects, initiatives to help children with life-limiting conditions and charities that address hunger and nutrition. But Robert Forrester, chief executive of the foundation, says it does not concentrate exclusively on these areas and is open to applications for work outside these fields.

Forrester says the foundation gives away all the profits of Newman's Own. "The business made about £20m last year," he says. "Of that, £17m was given away to charities. The rest of the money was put into a reserve fund for forward commitments."

About half of the foundation's money is given away through a written applications process. The other half is awarded to charities recommended by its 'community partners', a team of philanthropists and businesses who voluntarily research the sector, looking for potential beneficiaries.

"They act as our eyes and ears," says Forrester. "The community partners model means we give grants intelligently, and it also helps to keep our staffing levels low. We have only five members of staff."

Since Newman's death, Forrester says, the foundation has tried to reflect the actor's values as closely as possible.

"This means we are not rigid or formulaic when we look at applications for funding, and we trust the people we give money to," he says. "I think that other foundations tend to be more driven by measurements of impact and effectiveness than we are.

"Our philosophy is to be involved but not intrusive. We always consult the groups we fund, but we want charities to work towards their own objectives, rather than just do what we tell them."

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