Interview: Farewell to Camelot

Samantha Hyde, chief executive of the Camelot Foundation, winds up the grant-making organisation after the funding wrangle.

Samantha Hyde
Samantha Hyde

As the Camelot Foundation prepares to close its doors for the final time, Samantha Hyde, its chief executive, is in a reconciliatory mood.

The foundation's tribulations over whether it would receive funding from the Camelot Group, its parent company, to see it through to its originally planned closure date of 2009 have been well documented. The saga was a classic David and Goliath battle, except that this time the giant had the final say.

The row began after Camelot told the foundation that it would not be receiving the first of two £1m payments it was expecting in 2007/08 (Third Sector, 3 October 2007). Disagreement over how to tackle the situation seemed to emanate from within the foundation itself, with staff writing to their own chair to plead that the trustees do everything they could to hand over the money (Third Sector, 31 October 2007).

But as she sits at a table in the foundation's well-appointed Westminster offices, Hyde insists that no ill-feeling remains.

"Camelot staff have given us oodles of support," she says. "Despite the bits and pieces that have appeared in the media, the relationship has not been a difficult one.

"The reality is that every business has tough decisions to make on a daily basis. Camelot worked tirelessly for us and its staff were fantastic in terms of moving things forward."

The organisation will formally close at the end of June and has already started reducing its seven-strong workforce.

"We are in negotiations about who will take over the evaluation of our grants," Hyde says, although she declines to mention any names.

She admits that the process of early closure has been tough. "Managing people and managing emotions is difficult," she says.

Hyde says she found the foundations world "quite insular" when she came into the job two years ago from regeneration charity Groundwork, and thinks grant-givers should work more closely together and share concerns. "You have to engage more widely across the sector with other organisations and with people who influence change," she says.

However, she is opposed to government involvement in trying to make the organisations coordinate their work. She says: "I don't see how a policy adviser who has barely been out of the office would be able to direct where our money would best go. I don't think government could do it."

The crucial factor for a grant-giving trust is to be open about its work, says Hyde. "People have different motives for setting up these trusts," she says. "I think the most important thing is being clear about why you are doing it and what you want to achieve. There has to be that transparency because there is an awful lot of money there."

For her part, Hyde admits that she faced some challenges at the foundation. "Giving money away is really tough," she says.

The foundation had £13m worth of applications for a £500,000 pot. "You take them and you have to read them all through by Monday morning and decide who ends up with the money," she says. "Some of these organisations are working with people who are in very great need; it gives you sleepless nights worrying about it."

Ultimately, she is confident that the foundation has been successful.

"There is a huge sense of satisfaction," she says. "What are we here to do all day? To make sure that we are making good use of the money we had. I think we can say we have done a bloody good job."

Hyde CV

2007: Director, Camelot Foundation
2006: Interim director, Camelot Foundation
2006: Deputy director, Camelot Foundation
2005: Regional development and communications manager, Groundwork East of England
2004: Deputy executive director, Groundwork Camden and Islington
2002: Regional public affairs manager, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
2002: Coordinator, Norfolk Arts Marketing.

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