Sir Ian Wood

Sir Ian Wood is a philanthropist who thinks, and acts, both locally and globally.

Sir Ian Wood

Personal story

Through the work of the Wood Family Trust (WFT), whose mission is to help develop and support individuals to become contributing members of their communities, he predominantly focuses on developing economic opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa and the development of young people in the UK.

Influenced by the ethos of his family’s business, Wood Group, the global energy services firm founded in 1970, which sees itself as a ‘good citizen company’, Sir Ian soon became involved in the business of corporate philanthropy and community projects.

“We are all part of the same humanity – we must all contribute to humanity, not just take from it,” says Sir Ian. “Our company has benefited from globalisation and so should assume responsibility for some of the global problems.”

The Wood Group was involved with community and corporate philanthropy from its early inception, and while he was inspired by the company’s philanthropy, in setting up his family trust in 2007, Sir Ian, his wife and three sons took a fresh look at what causes they would support.

True to his belief and experiences in working with global communities, Sir Ian felt a responsibility to help people help themselves and improve their economic livelihood. He intends to give away £50m over the next 5-10 years, and his choices of causes to support “come from the heart balanced with a look at some of the core issues in society”, and a common theme of the Trust’s projects in the UK is tolerance, citizenship and enterprise.

Establishing a foundation was the most effective way Sir Ian could see to effectively facilitate giving away his money, providing a structure to help formalise plans and introduce more discipline. For Sir Ian it also provides a platform to talk to partners and other funders.

WFT has three clear areas of investment focus: economic development in Sub Sahara Africa; Developing young people in Scotland and Volunteering overseas; The Trust is “not in the aid business, we are seeking to make a long-term difference through supporting sustainable initiatives which deal with the root causes of our funding portfolios


“Watch your head v heart. You can lead by your heart, but your head must come into it too!”

Sir Ian’s personal involvement in the Trust is essential to his belief in empowering individuals and communities. “You must get directly involved to give effectively, and good philanthropy shares a lot of the same principles as good business – you need good people and performance.”

Garreth Wood, Sir Ian’s youngest son is very involved with the Trust, alongside his father. “We have had a good debate on the benefits of ‘aid’ v ‘livelihood’, for instance,” says Sir Ian, “and doing this as a family means a shared interest and bond.”

“We typically provide capacity building, network, and collaboration as well as funding to our funded projects, we recognise that effective performance does not just rely purely on a financial transaction.” Meeting people, the satisfaction of seeing the impact and changing people’s lives in a positive way in the longer term are the rewards Sir Ian gains from the Trust’s work.

One of Sir Ian’s flagship programmes in Scotland is the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative, which will see Scottish pupils identifying grassroots charities making a positive contribution to their community. Having learnt how to analyse the charity’s management, budget and strategy, teams give a presentation on why their proposed charity deserves the £3,000 support. The programme aims to hit the majority of secondary schools in Scotland. “This programme emulates a very important core value of our Trust, developing tolerant and caring citizens and we are very excited by the impact this will have on young people in Scotland.”

Sir Ian wants to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of his giving. “As the Trust was just founded last year we see this stage as a learning experience, and our approach is still evolving.”

This personal story is tagged under

  • Inspirational donations
  • Promoting philanthropy