Big Giver: The Wood Family Trust

Jo Mackie, chief executive of the trust, tells Sophie Hudson that charities should have the key competencies you would expect from any successful business

Jo Mackie
Jo Mackie

The Wood Family Trust was set up in September 2007 with a gift of £50m from Sir Ian Wood, a businessman, and his family.

Jo Mackie, chief executive of the trust, says it will donate the entirety of the fund rather than just the interest on it, but a decision has not yet been made about how soon to do that.

Mackie says the trust has so far committed up to £10m to projects in Africa and the UK - two key parts of its work being aiding economic development and employment in sub-Saharan Africa, and developing young people in Scotland.

Finance and support

"We're venture philanthropists," says Mackie. "We have a mandate that we provide finance plus. We feel the best way to support agendas is to provide finance and other types of support."

She says that because the trust takes this approach to working with charities, it very carefully selects those that will be willing for it to have a hands-on approach.

"We want an open dialogue and relationship with them," she says.

Part of this entails the trust seeing updates of the impact the charity's work is having. But Mackie says that charities sometimes do not see the value in measuring impact, or go about it in an inefficient way.

"I think the way we tackle it is we help charities think about how to measure their results and how they can measure them pragmatically," she says. "There's a lot of paperwork that goes on in the sector unnecessarily. I don't need a 30 page report - keep it short, simple and pragmatic."

Business competencies

Another thing that is important to the trust when looking for charities to fund is that they have the key competencies you would expect from any successful business, she says, such as great management, governance and staff. According to Mackie, this can be even more important than the charity's ideas.

"You can have the best ideas in the world, but you need to be effective to make it work," she says.

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