Michael Oglesby, CBE, 72, is founder and chairman of the Bruntwood Group, a commercial property company still in family hands and based in Manchester. His family trust gives about £750,000 ($1.2m) to charity every year and Bruntwood gives 10 per cent of its profits to charitable and community activities.
What is the first charity you can remember supporting?
Cancer Research. I was coerced by mother into rattling tins in the high street in Scunthorpe [Lincolnshire]. My mother passed the job of local secretary on to my wife some 50 years ago, saying that the charity would cease to exist in her lifetime, when they found a cure.
Which cause do you feel most strongly about today?
I support several but uppermost in my mind is the Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester (www.chethams.com), where I’m leading the project team for a new £35m development.
I believe Chetham’s is the finest music school for children in the world and that society without the arts – music in particular – is derelict, sterile. Everyone should have the opportunity to hear live, quality music and should be encouraged to play music. This has always required patronage.
Why did you set up a family charitable trust?
Firstly, because large donations have to be run like a business, with discipline and rigour. Second, it brings the family closer together. For example, I’ve given my 11-year-old granddaughter £1,000 to donate. That will grow if she proves to be responsible, which she has so far. I’ll do the same with my other grandchildren. It teaches them to be involved with less fortunate people and to think selflessly.
Why do you give to charity?
If you want a good society in which to live, work and bring up your family, then you can’t be passive. Giving is a key part of that process. You can’t just leave it to others and then complain.
Do businesses need to appear charitable?
Yes. First, because it’s very important for a company to have values – and one of those is supporting the community in which you operate. Second, there’s a very strong business case as well as the moral and altruistic case for giving. People like to do business with companies that have clear, strong moral values, and people like to work for those companies.
Should an employer choose the charity that employees support?
It’s important that you have a communal charity for your employees. It gives them something to hold them together and to work with themselves. But the guidance should be light-touch. There should be no compulsion about it. It goes back to the ethics thing. If you build up a good ethic in your company, then your staff would naturally follow that path.