What we do

The aim of the Swire Charitable Trust is to make grants to UK charities who are working hard to transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our society, as well as those working to protect our country’s heritage and environment.

Our focus on the environment is relatively recent, with our trustees approving the launch of our environment programme in July 2019. This development also resulted in the merger of two of our previous programmes (Opportunity and Welfare).

Our three core funding programmes are therefore:



Improving life chances, realising potential

We support charities that are directly addressing the challenges faced by the most marginalised and disadvantaged, supporting them to make the most of their talents and boost long-term outcomes.

We specifically focus on organisations working with:

  • Ex-service men and women
  • Victims of slavery and trafficking
  • Children and young people:
    • In the care of their local authority
    • Involved with the criminal justice system
    • From the most socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds
Case study


Involve – Connecting people to the environment

We fund charities that inspire and motivate individuals and communities to enhance our natural and built environment and help guide those who wish to live more sustainably.

Protect and Regenerate – Supporting the UK’s biodiversity

We support activities that actively improve the health and resilience of the UK’s eco-systems, habitats and native species.

Case study


Regeneration through restoration

We are keen to fund projects that have legitimacy from a heritage perspective as well as the potential to deliver meaningful social and economic benefits to deprived communities or disadvantaged people.

We favour grass-roots organisations that strongly engage with their local communities.

Safeguarding endangered skills

We also fund charities that are working hard to protect and cultivate the skills and knowledge underpinning the UK’s heritage sector.

Case study


We consider requests for less than £25,000 at Monthly Trustees Meetings, with larger requests considered quarterly (usually in January, April, July and October). We aim to complete the shortlisting process two to three weeks before each meeting.

Please note, the Trust’s Discretionary Fund is managed separately from our core funding programmes. It is able to make donations to charitable organisations whose work falls outside our funding criteria to causes championed by the staff and other stakeholders of John Swire & Sons Ltd and also endorsed by our trustees.

About our grants

Across our three programmes, we take a consistent, well-defined approach to the type of charity we support and how we make and structure our grants.

Who do we support?

We prioritise charities that:

  • Operate in some of the most economically disadvantaged parts of the UK and work with people from the most challenged backgrounds
  • Can clearly demonstrate the needs they are addressing
  • Know what they are aiming to achieve and plan to monitor and evaluate outcomes
  • Are well placed and qualified to deliver the work
  • Can show a proven track record as well as solid ambitions
  • Have the potential to change the way issues are tackled more widely
  • Take an effective approach to using volunteers and mentors (where appropriate)
  • Are seeking to make their income streams more sustainable
  • Have strong and quality leadership
  • Manage their finances prudently

What can’t we fund?

Please note that our core funding programmes are unable to consider:

  • Applications received by post or email, i.e. not via our online funding request form
  • Organisations that are not UK registered charities
  • Activities taking place outside England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
  • Individual applicants or proposals that will benefit only one person
  • Requests from charities that have applied to us in the last 12 months
  • Work that has already taken place
  • Statutory bodies or work that is primarily the responsibility of statutory authorities (e.g. residential, respite and day care, housing and the provision of mainstream education)
  • Activities of local organisations which are part of a wider network doing similar work (e.g. uniformed youth groups, YMCA, MIND, Mencap, Home-start, RDA, Relate, Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK etc)
  • Medical-related activities – such as those offering treatment, care, advice, research or equipment
  • Scholarships or bursaries

The Trust’s discretionary fund is not subject to all of these funding exclusions.

Our funding

Types of funding

Grants from our core programmes will aim to meet the needs identified in your application. We fund individual projects that are aligned with our funding priorities, though we also recognise that charities are often best placed to allocate resources within their organisations. We therefore award many grants on an unrestricted basis and are willing to support core costs, capital expenditure and salaries.

There is no maximum or minimum grant size and, although we base our grants on the amount requested and the size of organisation, we may award more or less than you applied for.
While most of our grants are for one year only, we appreciate that charities welcome security of funding. So, where a longer-term commitment can be clearly justified, we will consider multi-year grants of up to three years.

Our small team processes a large number of requests and grants each year. With such limited resources, we are unable to consider more complex funding arrangements, like loans, or offer other types of support such as advice, feedback or networking opportunities.

Standard conditions of funding

We aim to provide funding with as few strings attached as possible, but our grants usually come with a set of simple conditions. Any additional requirements will be detailed in the grant letter. We generally make our payments by cheque soon after a grant is awarded.

For grants of £25,000 or more and for multi-year grants, we now ask grantees for a simple report, either at the end of the grant period or, for multi-year grants, one month before the next payment tranche is due.

If we are funding a specific project that is subsequently found to be non-viable, grantees will need to seek our approval before reallocating our grant to another purpose.

We are happy to be named in charity donor lists, such as in annual reviews, but we ask you to get in touch if you wish to highlight the Trust in any other way.


Sadly, because we receive many more applications than we could ever hope to support, we inevitably have to turn down many requests, even those that are closely aligned with our funding priorities. In 2018, 85% of all applications were unsuccessful.