Peter Saunders OBE - From business to pleasure
Entrepreneur, business angel and philanthropist Peter Saunders OBE shares his story of philanthropy in the Welsh community he knows intimately.
I set up my first business in Wales. Halo Foods came to have an exceptional culture with huge loyalty and trust between the leaders and the workforce.
When I sold Halo Foods at the end of 2004, I realised how important the community aspect of our activities was. I also realised I could help through my varied business experience. So I set up the Peter Saunders Trust in 2005 and gifted to it a sum of money from the sale of my business.
I had been introduced by then to the idea of a “living will”, which entailed gifting money during one’s lifetime rather than through a Will at the end of life. This appealed to me. You can influence things within your own lifetime and really see and feel the difference you are making. Coutts was instrumental in this thinking and introduced me to a specialist charities lawyer in Cardiff who set up the trust for me.
I wanted to have as trustees local people with diverse experiences, and to get my family involved. With this in mind, the first trustees included one of my three sons (an accountant!) and prominent people in the local community, such as a police officer and a fellow businessman with experience as chair of trustees at a giant pension fund.
Since the initial donation, I have made more donations, but I also give my time to running the charity. The trust is proudly local in its outlook. I decided from the very start that I wanted to focus on what had been the “travel to work” area for my businesses. I also wanted to support the local communities that had supported me through the first phase of my business life so I could give something back.
The great thing about giving locally is that you have intimate knowledge of that area. This means that you can select what you fund wisely, get involved with the causes and influence what happens with the funding. I like the whole sense of involvement. I get a lot of pleasure out of making things happen, guiding people, stepping in if things are not going well, and actually seeing the benefits. I am always on the lookout for a large-scale project that could galvanise the whole community and have a major impact on everyone in the local area. I also look out for the opportunity for the trust to get involved in some of the deeper social issues that exist even in a rural community.
My advice to others who want to give locally would be to set up the trust in a professional manner and ensure you have other trustees around with whom to have constructive and challenging debate. Get involved and get talking to people!
Core to the trust are its independence, flexibility and vision. Some projects may be more successful than others, but you need to be prepared to accept some level of risk. The sense of being able to make something happen and being able to help someone is enormously fulfilling and rewarding. It is a great privilege to be in a position to make a difference to someone’s life.
Peter Saunders, OBE is an entrepreneur, business angel and philanthropist, who has lived and worked in rural Wales for over 35 years. Currently, he has a portfolio of businesses within Wales in which he invests, and he is working with one on a joint venture involving companies in America and India. He was honoured with an OBE in 1995 for services to business in Wales and set up his charity the Peter Saunders Trust in 2005.
Reprinted with the kind permission of Coutts & Co. The full case study is one of several featured in Coutts & Co’s new guide Inspiring Local Philanthropy, Making a difference in local communities, in association with New Philanthropy Capital and Community Foundation Network, Autumn 2011