In Interviews, News

The partnership between The Mulberry Trust and Heart of Bucks started in September 2010, but James and his wife Elsie also attended the inauguration of Heart of Bucks some 10 years earlier. This marked the commencement of their interest in our community foundation. We recently caught up with James to talk about his philanthropic work and support for the local community.

How long have you been involved in philanthropic and charitable work?

It all started many, many years ago when, as a 10 year old boy scout, I was privileged to be chosen to sell souvenir programmes outside the main entrance to Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953, which as many will know was the Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen. That day was the catalyst for my interest in other people, and the start of a very long and varied road to where I am today, nearly 70 years later. The Queen promised at her Coronation to devote her whole life to the interests of the people, that certainly struck a chord with me, and I certainly think now, if she can still keep her promise nearly 70 years later, then I should also keep doing my bit as well. Of course, I had no idea that one day I would want, be able, or afford, to set up our own family charity. What would be the seed for The Mulberry Trust, although I did not know it then, was a proposal I listened to in our church in 1958 when I was 16 years old. The Vicar announced that the Parish was going to introduce a programme of Planned Giving. He explained that this would help the Church to budget better, and if an amount was covenanted, to reclaim tax relief. In those days, one had to enter into a Deed of Covenant for a minimum of three years in order to reclaim the tax. I made the conscious decision not to take part, as I considered my 10 shillings a week collection (50p) would not go very far. However, I also promised myself that one day, I would do something meaningful.

That opportunity came in 1991. I was in a final meeting before the re-listing of a company on the London Stock Exchange. I left home in the morning, and did not arrive back until 37 hours later, having had no sleep, very little food other than gallons of coffee, and a TV interview. That meeting was attended by lawyers, bankers, accountants, receivers, and me. The meeting went well and the banks were pleased. At the end of the meeting, the banks said that they wanted to offer me a bonus of £300,000 (a lot of money 30 years ago), but I refused to accept the money. Something clicked in my head, I said that I would donate that money to a charity to be set up as our family charity. I would do something meaningful – I had kept my promise, 33 years later. Today, that charity is worth more than £7m and growing, funded entirely by Elsie and me. We have together managed the charity for 30 years, but we have to look to the future.

Why did you choose to set up an endowment fund with Heart of Bucks?

Our earliest connection with Heart of Bucks started in 1999. We grew to like what we saw, a charity for the whole county, not a single track specific charity, but a charity to help and assist many charities and individuals in the county. This helped us, because we could contribute to many needs and not be restricted by a single charity focus.

What do you like most about having an endowment with a community foundation?

By maintaining a fund with Heart of Bucks, we have the dual advantage of helping many, but with Heart of Bucks feeding us with ideas and undertaking a lot of the spade work. We continue to build up confidence, while retaining an involvement. At present, Heart of Bucks has part of our total funds, but as we become older, who knows, we may decide to grow our commitment.

How do you see your fund supporting the local community in the future?

I have been happy with my relationship with Heart of Bucks, it is a county-wide charity which allows us to continue supporting the many causes in Buckinghamshire where needs vary from time to time. It has been fulfilling, and we have had our say in how the money is spent. It is certainly something I believe other people would find of interest. If not now, then in their Wills. I have made provision in my Will for more giving, very largely, I must say, at the expense of the Government and not the other beneficiaries.

What would you say to someone thinking about setting up an endowment?

Did you know, that at present, if you give to a charity 10% of your chargeable estate, the tax rate on the remainder of your chargeable estate goes down by 10%? You can set up your own fund for the future, mainly at the expense of the Government – ask your solicitor or accountant. It certainly appeals to me.

If you’d like to find out more about how Heart of Bucks can assist with your charitable giving please get in touch: