27th Jul 2022

Magnus Willis (second right) meeting the team at Peace of Mind.

Being a donor and setting up a fund at the Community foundation can be a very personal journey. You decide who the fund should benefit and get to see the difference your giving makes. It also creates a philanthropic legacy that can pass through the generations. For Magnus Willis, taking on the fund his father set up and becoming a donor in his own right, allowed him to personalise his philanthropy and witness first-hand the legacy of his father's giving alongside his own. 

“The Willis Charitable Fund was set up by my dad, Peter, at the Community Foundation in 1999, and was designed to support organisations in education, music and the church. And ideally a combination of the three! These were subjects very close to his heart and he was rightly proud of the effect the Fund was able to have”. 

When Peter died in 2016 and Magnus became the Fund Advisor, it prompted him and his mum to look at the criteria for the funds. 

As Magnus explained:  “It felt like the right time to review its purpose and ensure that it was fully aligned with our priorities and the areas that we felt were most in need of financial assistance. To that end, we changed the focus of the fund to housing, food poverty, and refugees and asylum seekers”. 

Having a fund at the Community Foundation can allow a donor to be reactive to key issues, such as the Coronavirus pandemic and the significant increase of food poverty in the region.  

Said Magnus: 

“One of the brilliant things about the Community Foundation is that it does the work of identifying the organisations that can most benefit from our fund”.   

The Community Foundation understands the importance of donors seeing in-person the difference their giving makes so when Magnus asked about visiting an organisation he supported, Elaine Holdsworth suggested a visit to Peace of Mind. 

“Elaine organised a visit to Peace of Mind - a charity in Gateshead that helps asylum seekers and refugees with emotional and practical support to promote integration and help with destitution issues”. 

Magnus described the visit to see Peace of Mind as a “powerful and memorable experience”. Speaking to the charity brought to life their work and impact: 

“It was good to get a sense of what our Fund had helped with but it was much more than that. We met Sara, the inspiring woman who started Peace of Mind, and she gave life not just to the cause and charity itself, but also the day-to-day challenges they face. It is this that will live with me. Put simply, it made being a donor real”. 

For Sara at Peace of Mind, “it was great to have been able to welcome Magnus and Elaine at our charity and to let them see and experience first-hand the difference our charity makes to the lives of socially deprived RAS community”. 

“We are extremely grateful for a generous grant award received from the Willis Charitable Fund towards the running cost of Women Only English Classes in Gateshead. This grant has enabled us to fill the gap around “Women Only” support services in our area. We believe these sessions will make a huge difference by empowering vulnerable refugee women to build better lives here in the North East”. 

If you’re interested in starting a charitable fund at the Community Foundation which matches your wishes and interests, you can find out more here: https://www.communityfoundation.org.uk/givingandphilanthropy/start-your-fund/ 

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