"Philanthropy is critical to my existence"

Posted on 15 October 2018

"Philanthropy is critical to my existence"

John Caudwell is an English businessman who co-founded the mobile phone retailer Phones4u. He is also a prominent philanthropist who has founded two charities, Caudwell Children and Caudwell LymeCo. In 2013 Caudwell signed the 'Giving Pledge', committing to donate half of his wealth before he died.

I knew I would help people from a young age, however I spent most of my early life trying to be successful. In the stresses and pressures of that, there was very little room for charitable works.

This changed when the NSPCC came to me one day in the early 1990’s to sponsor a Lord Taverner’s Cricket Match. Instead of sponsoring it I took over the whole event and made it as profitable for them as I could.  From that moment on my charitable works grew rapidly.

Philanthropy is critical to my existence.  It gives me spiritual uplift and personal contentment.  When I see the way that I can help make people’s lives better I get a real sense of satisfaction and happiness. 

Unfortunately there is so much social injustice in the world, so much suffering, and so many people living a very difficult life.  Having the power to change that is a huge privilege, but philanthropy is also desperately needed to fill in the huge gaps between the welfare state and the people.

I like causes that truly touch my heart, and by far the most compelling of those are sick children.  I also choose causes where my money can be used to leverage other peoples, and make a much bigger difference than just my donation.

My own experiences don't normally inform my charitable giving, with the exception of Caudwell LymeCo. Most of my family suffered from LymeCo to some degree and, as I result, I saw the huge amount of suffering around the world. People were being medically ignored, and in a lot of cases thought to be hypochondriac.  I am on a real mission to change this.

I think philanthropy needs to be more widespread amongst the rich.  There are only 150 billionaires in the world who are part of The Giving Pledge.  I hope that my influence and the others involved will inspire people to review their affairs and join our group.  If all the billionaires gave half of their wealth away, the world would be utterly transformed.

Getting involved in charitable giving can seem daunting. The first thing, of course, is to decide whether you want to run a charity or just donate money to worthy causes. There are so many charities that just donating is not always the most efficient way to support them.  That said, if you are going to donate to charity, it is worth spending a bit of time getting to know them, understanding their accounts and trying to assess their effectiveness.

For instance, Caudwell Children, a charity I founded 18 years ago, has helped 30,000 children.  It is extremely efficient because I pay all the operating and administrative expenses, so when people donate they know that every penny goes directly to ill children.  In fact, my team are so passionate and expert that every pound donated is turned into £2.10 worth of value to the children we help.

Apart from a sense of personal satisfaction, emotional well-being and spiritual uplift, charitable giving has given me more self-respect and I guess has led to me being more respected by others.

My children are brought up in this ethos and all five of them want to make the world a better place for other people.  I know that this will make them more fulfilled and happy within their own lives.

I have committed to leaving at least half of my wealth to a charitable foundation that will operate according to my letter of wishes.  The foundation trustees will be my children, and my nearest and dearest.  I hope that I will have helped to change hundreds of thousands of lives before I die, and that my children will continue to change hundreds of thousands more after I'm gone.  Could any man wish for a better legacy?

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