16 Days of Action starts here

handonmug

As you may have seen, we’re about to embark on 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Abuse. We certainly need it. Figures show that violent crime against women is rising[1], with over 1 in 4 women having experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16[2].

handonmug

Lloyds Bank Foundation has been supporting charities tackling domestic and sexual abuse and its impacts for over thirty years, funding small, specialist services in communities right across England and Wales. In fact, it’s one of our biggest areas of funding, with more than 80 charities which support those affected by domestic and sexual abuse currently in receipt of grants. These charities can be found in every corner of England and Wales, from West Cornwall Women’s Aid to Rape Crisis Tyneside & Northumberland and Safer Merthyr Tydfil. But even if we directed all the Foundation’s resources to small charities tackling domestic abuse, they will continue to be squeezed by increasing demands and ever diminishing resources.  Meanwhile, Government and commissioners are failing to recognise the importance of specialist support provisions, not just for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse but to meet specific needs of people who may be older or from a BME background for example.

Whilst we continue to fund charities tackling disadvantage through Invest and Enable grants, domestic and sexual abuse has become a key priority area for the Foundation’s national work. Last year we announced our initial investments aimed at helping specialist services to be more successful when facing the current challenging commissioning climate. This is supplemented with real-time individual support from Imkaan, Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid through which 119 specialist local services have already received a personalised support service.

We know that effective help for the sector can’t only focus on propping up charities: we want to change the system. We’ve worked with the sector to tackle challenges with commissioning, developing a resource in Wales to help commissioners better understand how to meet needs effectively. We also led the development of a similar resource for commissioners in England which is soon to be published. We know this won’t change commissioning overnight, but we hope it is another tool to strengthen the sector. Backing from the Welsh Government shows just how valued the voluntary sector, and specialist services in particular, is in tackling domestic abuse.

To have real impact in tackling the extent of domestic and sexual abuse we can’t only patch up victims and support survivors, we have to stop abuse at its source. We’re investing £1m in Drive, a new approach to challenge high risk perpetrators of domestic abuse led by Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance which seeks to reduce harm now and in the future. It’s not going to be easy, but to reduce the number of victims we must first reduce the number of perpetrators.

These are just three projects supported by the Foundation. In a sector that has so many ideas of how to make a better world, we want to support the best ideas to influence change. Transform: Domestic and Sexual Abuse, our new one-off grants programme to help sector specialists inform and influence responses to domestic and sexual abuse, as well as strengthening the sector from within. We had an outstanding response to our initial call for applications – there were far more strong bids than we could ever support which is testament to the talent, knowledge and determination in the sector.

Set against the challenges presented by domestic and sexual abuse, we know that our funding through Invest, Enable and national programmes is but a small contribution, that’s why these 16 Days of Action are so important. No one organisation alone can tackle these problems and it is imperative that Government takes affirmative action to ensure specialist services can both survive and thrive.

Caroline Howe, Policy and National Programmes Manager

[1]http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/72273/1/Walby_Towers_Francis_Soc_Review.pdf
[2] Crime Survey for England and Wales

Recognising the valuable contribution small charities make

This blog first appeared on Third Sector on 21st November 2016.

Encouraging a learning culture is the way forward for the sector, writes our Chief Executive Paul Streets.

Twenty Twenty - LBF-39.jpg
Loughborough charity Twenty Twenty, mentioned below, supports disadvantaged young people into employment and education.

We recently gave written and oral evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities. This was a crucial opportunity to ensure the views of small and medium-sized charities were represented in any discussions about sustainability of the sector and governance.

My oral evidence session focused on measuring impact and value. It seems to me that the bar for the third sector is often set higher than that demanded of other sectors. Small charities in particular face an ill-informed presumption that they’re not good at reporting or measuring their impact.

Small charities in particular face an ill-informed presumption that they’re not good at reporting or measuring their impact.

Why is this the case and how should those organisations that commission services from charities approach impact measurement in their contracts?

The charities that apply to us for funding all have systems for measuring the outcomes they aim to achieve with the people they work with. But although measuring impact is a prerequisite for our funding, we certainly don’t insist on how they do it, so we see different approaches and methods that tell different impact stories.

We ask them what they’ve achieved as part of our grant monitoring and – if they want it – we offer support so they can improve their approach and, ultimately, their service. But our approach is not about imposing accountability or treating charities with suspicion. Our focus is on encouraging a learning culture, where charities are supported to track success and failure, ask for “customer” feedback and act on what they learn to improve service.

Over the years I’ve met countless small charities and I am yet to meet one that isn’t interested in improving impact measurement. But they struggle to find any money to fund formal evaluations, so they focus on measures that relate directly to their day-to-day work. Many use industry-recognised methods, such as the Outcomes Star, that create a different, nuanced conversation with their beneficiaries at thepoint of “sale”. Most public and private businesses would give their eye teeth for that degree of bespoke customer experience.

Most public and private businesses would give their eye teeth for that degree of bespoke customer experience.

There is no doubt that, as a sector, we need to be much better at creating and recognising a more nuanced impact picture. In my evidence I cited three very different approaches from charities we fund.

  • One25 supports sex workers in Bristol and reports very hard outcomes in terms of housing and women stopping sex work.

  • Landau in Telford supports the integration of people with learning disabilities into mainstream life and reports a qualitative story of soft outcomes – like the young man who travelled on a bus independently for the first time.

  • Twenty Twenty in Loughborough supports disadvantaged young people into employment and education and has opted for a social return on investment model. It worked with Leicester City Council to note that for every £1 invested there is a return of 5 to 1

All are legitimate but none fits into convenient pigeonholes that can be aggregated up or commissioned down.

And that’s the problem. From speaking with small and medium-sized charities, we hear their experiences of working with commissioners obsessed with standardising how they measure impact across diverse services. Where accountability for local provision ends up being outsourced to a small charity, commissioners frequently insist on a payment-by-results contract with often damaging effects on the charity’s ability to deliver local services.

Payment by results might work for straightforward services such as meals on wheels or hours of domiciliary care, but not for those organisations working on complex issues. It’s why effective domestic violence funding focuses on an individual’s holistic needs and works to address multiple underlying issues, rather than viewing domestic violence as a housing issue. And it’s why it’s a nonsense to link payment to “unique contacts” – ignoring the fact that these problems are rarely fixed once.

Payment by results might work for straightforward services such as meals on wheels or hours of domiciliary care, but not for those organisations working on complex issues.

Society can’t afford to have these services, or the impact they have on local communities, trivialised in this way. We need to measure impact through the eyes of a person receiving the service: as a good business would its consumers.

If we – local authorities, commissioners and funders – have done our due diligence correctly, we should have identified the organisation that is best placed to deliver the support individuals need. We need then to trust it to use its personal knowledge and experience of service users to decide the most appropriate impact measures. Good grant-making works that way.

Perhaps the question the House of Lords should be asking of all charities is this: whose impact measures should count? And it should recognise that the story small local charities present will look very different to that of large nationals. Perhaps then peers will see no shortage of great charities bettering lives – whether small or large.

Paul is one of this year’s top 30 #SocialCEOs. Follow him on Twitter @PaulStreets_

The role of the voluntary sector in creating better places

alisonashtonyvonneoglesby01

This essay first appeared in the New Local Government Network‘s essay collection Unlocking the power of local, published on 15 November 2016.

The implications of Brexit will play out for years to come on the national and international stage. Yet, despite its global impact, research suggests that how people voted in the EU referendum was very much driven by local experiences.

Whether that was feeling marginalised in the North or misunderstood in the market towns of middle England, it is what was happening on people’s high streets that were big determinants of why they voted primarily to leave. Place matters.

It makes sense. Whatever the headline GDP figures, it is the strength or weakness of the local economy which shape our prospects and perspective, and our sense of identity and wellbeing. So how do we create places that thrive? Places which generate and sustain economic growth and social opportunity, and which crucially do not fall or leave anyone behind? Business, local government and the wider public sector are obviously key.

But the voluntary and community sector also has a vital role to play.

It needs to be central both to the debate about priorities and to the actual practice of local leadership. Ninety-seven per cent of the VCS is intimately connected to a particular place, with a turnover of less than £1m.

These small and medium sized charities have been developed by communities, with communities and for communities: people of goodwill coming together to right a wrong, meet a need or argue for better. From picking communities up after floods and riots, to providing lifelines for those suffering domestic abuse, to tackling loneliness amongst the elderly, engaging disaffected young people or integrating refugees, the VCS creates and provides the solutions, picking up the pieces where others fail. And it’s not just what they do that matters but how they do it.

They come from the community, employing local people, growing local leaders and spending money locally.

They regenerate local spaces, and provide focal points, catalysing action, development, resources and volunteering. Through their local entrepreneurship, collaborative leadership and positive action, they are past masters at doing more with less. The best of them are constantly identifying new ways to ensure not just that no one is left behind, but that people get ahead in the first place.

But too often their solutions are taken for granted or ignored. Too few see the VCS as partners, not just for providing vital services but for engaging communities and building a sense of place and purpose. Too few recognise and indeed cherish their ability to bring together citizens, communities, businesses, civic groups and statutory services to build bridges and galvanise action.

Sadly, too often the VCS are being actively marginalised. They aren’t included in strategic decisions.

And the switch from grants to contracts has seen a catastrophic fall in income of up to 44 per cent for small and medium sized charities.

Procurement processes that might work for bulk services like rubbish collection and an all-consuming focus on apparent economies of scale has resulted in unit cost being the only thing that matters, despite the complex human-centred nature of what charities are doing and the longterm value to communities of their broader role.

Yes, charities can be helped around tendering, and certainly commissioning and procurement should be improved. But we need to frame the discussion more broadly than that: not just treating the VCS as part of a centrally commissioned delivery chain, but encouraging and sustaining the role of the VCS in changing systems and places for the better.

We know some councils are actively thinking about this. For example, Camden is developing longer-term strategic relationships with local charities. Businesses too are building new partnerships, such as Lloyds Banking Group staff mentoring local charities supported by the Foundation and helping build their capacity. Local charities are front and centre to building and sustaining thriving communities. But they need to be front and centre in decision making too if we are going to help local communities take back control of their social and economic prospects.

Duncan Shrubsole, Director of Policy, Partnerships and Communications

@duncanshrubsole

Let’s tackle low pay in the voluntary sector

living-wage-friendly-funder

Chris Anderson, our Director of Grant Making South looks at the implications of a living wage for small charities and the voluntary sector. 

It’s Living Wage Week this week. This is a great opportunity to celebrate those organisations who have taken the decision to pay their staff a fair wage, but it’s also an opportunity for us to take a step back and consider the implications for those individuals earning less than a living wage.

We signed up to become a Living Wage Friendly Funder earlier this year. Not only does this mean we pay our own staff the living wage, but we are also working to encourage small charities seeking grants from us for specific posts to also ensure these posts are paid a living wage.living-wage-friendly-funder

Given than many of the charities we support are dealing with the impact of poverty on a daily basis (and despite wanting to do the right thing), paying the living wage to their staff can often be a challenge for small charities where funding is always stretched. In fact, many people are still surprised to find out that staff working for small charities get paid at all.

Yes, charities do pay their staff and rightly so. Small charities are full of dedicated, professional individuals who support some of the most disadvantaged and at risk members of our communities.

They work tirelessly in challenging environments and they do so with remarkable enthusiasm and energy. Its only right that they are paid a fair wage that enables them to live and provide for their own families.

Charities often tell us that funders or commissioners sometimes make assumptions that people will want to work in the voluntary sector and are happy to accept low pay because they are committed to a cause or making a difference. Some charities have even had to resort to lower wages through zero hours’ contracts so they can secure contracts for public services that they may have been delivering for years.

So what does this mean in practice for us as a Foundation? Well for new grants we award from January 2017 onwards, we have made a clear commitment to fund any salaries that our grants support at the Living Wage levels.  It’s not a mandatory requirement but as our Grant Managers carry out their assessment visits to charities applying to us for grants, they will be positively encouraging these charities to consider bringing their pay levels up.

We’re therefore pleased that we can go the extra mile and not only provide funds for the work of small charities but put pounds in the pockets of those who have dedicated their lives to making a difference.

We want to end low pay in the voluntary and community sector. And if small charities are supported to do this, there’s absolutely no reason why larger charities, businesses and others funders can’t follow suit.

Let’s celebrate National Mentoring Day

Vivienne Wiggins, Chief Executive at Beacon House Ministries and Chris Gardiner, Regional Operations Manager, Lloyds Banking Group

Kay Cameron, Charity Mentoring Coordinator at Lloyds Bank Foundation shines a spotlight on our mentoring programme as we celebrate National Mentoring Day. 

Today is National Mentoring Day.To celebrate we want to shine a spotlight on how our Charity Mentoring programme has brought small charities together with Lloyds Bank colleagues.

There are currently over 280 Lloyds Banking Group colleagues mentoring small charities right across England and Wales. As one of the leading grant makers in England and Wales, Lloyds Bank Foundation recognises that whilst financial support is critical for small charities, they also need other support so they can continue working with some of the most disadvantaged and at-risk members of our communities.

Charity Mentoring offers a unique means of forging closer relationships between the private sector and small charities at a community level.

We match Lloyds Banking Group colleagues with a member of staff at a small local charity. Mentors apply their broad business management skills and their external perspective in supporting their matched charities, and in some instances draw on their specific skill sets – such as risk management or business planning – to aid a charity’s development.

As our Chief Executive Paul Streets explains “It’s not easy to get this match right and it certainly doesn’t happen by accident.

“It takes time and effort to get the right charity leader with the right bank colleague. But when these two worlds embrace as equals they do so at a very human level. Barriers and prejudices dissolve on both sides. It’s genuinely humbling and usually surprising.”

We believe Charity Mentoring is most successful when it is mutually beneficial. By harnessing the skills of colleagues at Lloyds Banking Group, small charities can be strengthened and supported to become more robust, effective and sustainable. At the same time, Lloyds Banking Group colleagues benefit from stretching their skills in new settings, developing new capabilities, and building stronger ties to the communities where they live and work.

Chris Gardiner, Regional Operations Manager at Lloyds Banking Group is one example of what charity mentoring looks like in practice. He currently mentors Vivienne Wiggins, Chief Executive of Beacon House Ministries, a homeless charity in Colchester. Chris explains how together he and Vivienne have established their own approach to Charity Mentoring.

picture1
Vivienne Wiggins, Chief Executive at Beacon House Ministries and Chris Gardiner, Regional Operations Manager, Lloyds Banking Group

“We now meet once a month for about an hour, away from Beacon House so we have an hour without interruption. Vivienne sets the agenda, and it’s about things that are relevant to that month so it can be a chat with a purpose. We’ve covered topics from time management to task delegation.

“I often reference the chats I’ve had with Vivienne at work – topics like stress and busyness span sectors, and I’ve learnt about different approaches to this too from Vivienne. I make sure the support I offer is flexible, which means we find a way of working that’s good for us both.”

From her perspective running a busy charity, Vivienne says “Chris helps me move forward and carefully consider my options. The trust level is being built, and it’s rare to have this with someone external and knowledgeable. So when something’s looming, I now have that support, in whatever form I might need it.

“It feels really good to have a critical friend at a senior level so I can have those strategic conversations.”

Charity mentoring is just one example of how Lloyds Banking Group is supporting local communities and is a crucial tool for staff engagement.

Damian Leeson, Director of Responsible Business concludes “Our partnership with the Foundation has given our colleagues a greater insight and pride in the difference being made in their local communities through their efforts and it allows us to deliver the commitments we made within our Helping Britain Prosper Plan to support 10,000 charities by 2020 as a result of our £100m commitment to the Foundations. It’s also a double win our staff are not just transferring skills, we have found that through the mentoring programme they are broadening their personal skill set.”

If you’re a charity currently receiving a grant from Lloyds Bank Foundation and are interested in working with a Charity Mentor talk to your local Grant Manager. If you’re a Lloyds Banking Group colleague and interested in mentoring someone from a local charity do get in touch to find out more about what’s involved.

Kay Cameron, Charity Mentoring Coordinator
kcameron@lloydsbankfoundation.org.uk

Grown-up relationships in connecting worlds

This blog first appeared on www.thirdsector.co.uk on 17th October 2016.

Making connections is one of the most powerful things a charity can do, writes our Chief Executive Paul Streets.

In my experience, there’s little more valuable developmentally than meeting and sharing with trusted peers: life, loves, hopes, fears. Problems shared really are problems halved.

And yet one consequence of declining financial support is that many charities, particularly small organisations, find it increasingly hard to find the time and money for their own knowledge and skill development. Investment in themselves is seen as an indulgence they cannot justify or afford.

There’s a need for cost-effective but relevant learning opportunities and peer-to-peer support. One of the most powerful things charities can do is make connections – as a sector we should be much better at recognising the value of these relationships.

One of the most powerful things charities can do is make connections – as a sector we should be much better at recognising the value of these relationships.

One of the surprising connections we see is through our mentoring scheme. Here, senior Lloyds Banking Group staff work directly to strengthen a local charity leader whose organisation has received funding from our foundation. It’s a model that goes far beyond the traditional route of seeing a charity’s work or digging a garden and making a financial donation as a result.

CheshireWithoutAbuse073.jpg
Saskia Ritchie, Chief Executive of Cheshire Without Abuse with her Charity Mentor Alyson Armstrong, a Risk and Compliance Manager at Lloyds Banking Group

Our approach to charity mentoring is emphatically and unapologetically founded on reciprocity. It’s not easy to get this match right and it certainly doesn’t happen by accident. It takes time and effort to get the right charity leader with the right bank colleague, and even then the chemistry isn’t always right. But we’re beginning to see tangible examples of the benefits for both sides.

Our approach to charity mentoring is emphatically and unapologetically founded on reciprocity.

The charity chief executive gets a fresh and independent perspective on the issues they face, which usually ends up in a range of practical support: with business plan development or strategic guidance on how they can diversify their income, for example.

The banker gets an insight into the community that they serve and they issues that might end up in financial woe but start with life’s blows. This can have a profound effect on how they do their own day jobs. One of our senior mentors has transformed the way he manages mental health issues among the thousands of banking staff he leads. Another has improved the way vulnerable customers are handled on call lines.

Both sides gain from the relationship, and this is important. A relationship based on two consenting and equal, if different, adults fuels understanding and compassion in a society that too often condemns through ignorance. When these two worlds embrace as equals they do so at a very human level. Barriers and prejudices dissolve on both sides. It’s genuinely humbling and usually surprising.

When these two worlds embrace as equals they do so at a very human level. Barriers and prejudices dissolve on both sides. It’s genuinely humbling and usually surprising.

For me, our mentoring programme is just one example of how we in the third sector can foster better and more grown-up relationships with the private sector, and they with us. Both sides can understand that although it’s fine to raise money from the private sector – or anyone – it’s just not enough.

And as public sector finance abandons us, salami slice by salami slice, we need to recognise the truth that we in the third sector have always had much in common with the private sector, especially at the coal face.

We in the third sector have always had much in common with the private sector, especially at the coal face.

If we capture hearts and minds first, contributions will follow in surprising and often humbling ways.

Our sector is replete with go-getting entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they do and committed to serving “their” local community. Individuals who spot a problem and get on with developing a solution without waiting to be asked or “commissioned”.

By moving beyond our focus on public money – constrained by contracts and commissioners – to a more grown-up relationship with the private sector, we’re able to develop a mutual understanding of the strengths and skills both sides bring to the table.

It’s only by working together that we can build the inclusive economy that Theresa May talks about, but in a very human form. The fact that getting it right might help both our bottom lines is the end point, not the start.

Who to fund is full of tough choices

This blog first appeared on www.thirdsector.co.uk on 12th September 2016.

The decision-making meeting for funders is typically difficult, writes our Chief Executive Paul Streets.

Paul Streets
Our Chief Executive, Paul Streets

At the Foundation, we make grants three times a year, and there’s always more worthwhile work to fund than money in the pot. Yet far from feeling bleak, the decision-making days are uplifting, because they’re about more than sums. The fierce board table discussions among our staff connected with charities on the frontline day in, day out reveal a great deal about the state of the sector, and why local charities remain so worth fighting for.

Far from feeling bleak, the decision-making days are uplifting, because they’re about more than sums.”

Our latest decision-making meeting was typically difficult. Long after we had sifted out ineligible charities, we were left with 106 applications to consider, which between them needed £6,274,492. We had just £3,551,262.

As our regional staff presented their strongest charities, it was clear that they were already emotionally invested in the difference funding could make. Having visited, spoken with staff and met people each charity could help, they fought hard against their critical peers, aware all the while that every win was a loss for another charity somewhere else.

They fought hard against their critical peers, aware all the while that every win was a loss for another charity somewhere else.”

The 106 applications reflect the frontline of disadvantage today: helping women in abusive relationships; refugees; young people leaving care; people escaping mental health, drugs, alcohol, homelessness, prison and more. What’s less obvious at first glance, but abundantly clear from our discussions, is that charities come to us to fund an issue but it’s never siloed in that way. One problem layers on another and another.  As do their responses. But it’s this devotion and depth of intervention that makes small and local charities unique, and grant-making decision days so motivating.

It’s this devotion and depth of intervention that makes small and local charities unique, and grant-making decision days so motivating.”

They bring into focus a world that can look bleak at a distance; illuminating a rich picture of determination to tackle the intractable.

Fighting against the tide of homelessness are small charities such as Emmaus North East, which has just two staff and 20 volunteers in Gateshead. It is responding to homelessness levels that are twice the national average and has seen the steepest increase in deprivation in the country in the past five years.

They are charities such as Kent Refugee Action Network in Dover, which offers help to young unaccompanied asylum seekers and whose numbers have increased by 250 per cent in the last year, and organisations such as Action Foundation in Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland, which supports those given refugee status.

Our grants are also supporting new and emerging issues. For example, in Kensington and Chelsea, London, we’re helping the Cara Trust to support the first generation of older people living with HIV find suitable housing. And we’re funding innovative approaches like that of Recovery Cymru, which launched a pioneering addiction aftercare programme: the first of its kind in the UK.

So, what does this snapshot tell us about the sector? Isn’t this a typical grant application portfolio? Maybe – but perhaps that’s the point. Every grant-making day leaves us certain that small and local charities remain at the cutting edge of tackling disadvantage.

Every grant-making day leaves us certain that small and local charities remain at the cutting edge of tackling disadvantage.”

We’re consistently presented with charities who, because they’re agile, can respond to socio-economic issues as they arise. Who, because they’re community focused, are the first port of call for people in need, and who stay with them even when other service providers have given up on them.

Even as they fight harder for funding in the face of rising demand and massively reducing income from local and central government, they continue to provide hope, for those they reach and for society. As one door closes, they find another; bringing fresh initiatives and energy to generate new income and provide for those they serve.

That’s why when I’m asked whether it matters whether the smallest are swallowed up by larger counterparts my answer remains resolutely in the affirmative.

It’s a privilege to support some, and heart-rending we can’t support all. We awarded 58 grants totalling more than £3.7m. We went over budget. Wouldn’t you?