Jimi Heselden, multi-million pound philanthropist, R.I.P.

I was very sad to read about the untimely death of UK philanthropist Jimi Heselden, in a tragic accident yesterday.

Mr Heselden kindly agreed to appear in a case study in the 2009 Coutts Million Pound Donors report, to talk about his path from poverty to philanthropy.

He  had a fascinating story to tell of  a man who was born and brought up in a poor suburb of South Leeds (which is also my home city), and who wanted to give something back when he became a successful entrepreneur. He told me, “I feel a very strong connection to those parts of that city. I’m interested in giving other people a chance to get on in life”.

He also said, “when I make a decision, I like to act fast” and was more than true to his word. Within just 4 days of meeting the chief executive of the Leeds Community Foundation, he made an initial donation of £10m, and I’ve read that his total philanthropy has since exceeded £20m.

His case study ended with these words: “What’s most important to me is knowing that so far I’ve been able to help out 61 good projects in parts of Leeds that mean something to me, and knowing that the money I’ve got banked in the Community Foundation means I can carry on giving something back by supporting many more local projects in the future”.

It’s terribly sad that Jimi Heselden won’t be around to see the difference his generosity will make, but his decision to share a big chunk of his wealth will be felt far into the future and the ongoing impact of his philanthropy will hopefully bring some comfort to the loved ones he has left behind.

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