WHEN a group of us sat down to dinner with Princess Anne last autumn to discuss this newspaper’s first-ever charity appeal, City A.M. managing director Lawson Muncaster set an initial financial target of £250,000, an amount that seemed to those present to be both ambitious and stretching.

Now, as we close proceedings, we are delighted to report that our initial hopes have been massively exceeded.

In the weeks following the appeal in December, readers continued to give, raising our total to £753,325. Thanks to gift aid and the UK government’s pound for pound match, our appeal total has now exceeded an incredible £1.5m. Included in this figure is a number of large corporate gifts from the likes of Lloyds Banking Group and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The funds will be used by our appeal charity partner, Opportunity International, to enable some of the poorest people in Malawi to help themselves out of poverty. Your donations will help Opportunity, whose patron is Princess Anne, provide small business expansion loans, savings accounts and microinsurance cover to over 10,000 people.

“We are working closely with Opportunity to see how the appeal funds are put to work,” says Allister Heath, editor of City A.M.

“We will report back to you in June, six months on from the appeal, bringing the key facts, figures and stories that will be the direct result of your generosity.”

Opportunity CEO Edward Fox explained that our support is especially important right now: “Malawi’s current economic challenges include massive shortages of fuel, food and foreign exchange. As is always the case, this is hitting the poorest people hardest. This is why your generosity is so timely.

“By helping us extend our financial services to more poor people, you will help them have a better chance of growing their businesses, increasing their profitability, providing for their families and saving for that inevitable rainy day.”

Our final £1.5m total was made possible by the government’s UK Aid Match scheme that matched public appeal donations pound for pound. Andrew Mitchell, secretary of state for International Development, said: "This is a hugely generous response from the readers of City A.M. We’ve matched readers’ donations pound for pound in recognition of this overwhelming public support for Opportunity International’s work.”