Lindsay Whitelaw, 53, is a co-founder and partner of fund management group Artemis Investment Management, which for several years has partnered anti-poverty charity Mercy Corps (www.mercycorps.org.uk). He has visited its programmes in a variety of troubled countries, most recently Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor).
What is the first charity you remember supporting?
Aged eight, I went door-to-door collecting for a charity for disabled rugby players.
Which cause do you feel most passionately about?
Having children of my own, I’m drawn towards charities that can help disadvantaged youngsters. For instance, at Artemis we’ve worked with an organisation called Debate Mate (www.debatemate.com), which teaches debating skills to schoolchildren. It can transform them. One kid was serially excluded from classes. Debate Mate worked with him and he ended up as president of the Oxford University Student Union.
What attracted you to Mercy Corps?
A few years ago Artemis took on sponsorship of the Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon, Scotland’s toughest one day endurance race. Proceeds had always gone to a Mercy Corps venture every year, so we kept that going. Mercy Corps operates in 44 countries, often in the toughest territories, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. It is superb at providing relief after disasters, then staying on to build self-sustaining communities that aren’t reliant on hand-outs. I’ve been impressed by the professionalism and effectiveness.
What were you doing in Timor-Leste?
The funds from this year’s quadrathlon went to a Mercy Corps project there. It was fascinating. Basic infrastructure is lacking, so the project will make a huge difference – [we hope] lifting 22,000 people out of poverty.
Why do you give to charity?
If you can give, corporately or individually, you should. What’s interesting is that it’s often harder to give effectively than to generate money in the first place. You have to work hard to make sure the money you give away is being used properly.
How have recent years affected the financial sector’s attitude to charity?
The level of donation has declined and commitment times have reduced. So, for example, a company that pledged to donate for three years, so that a charity could plan, may have dropped to an annual commitment. There’s also an increasing demand for transparency. That will be an important future factor in who’s going to get funds.
Is charity ever used as an excuse to go gallivanting around the world?
That might be the motivation for some but we need to validate and understand where the money raised via the quadrathlon is going. You can’t do that from a desk. It’s no-frills, difficult travelling but I think it puts the world in a different perspective. Therein lies the real benefit to us as donors.