Paul Streets: My own loss reminded me why charities matter

For many, charity staff are the only people ‘in the corner’ of their beneficiaries, writes our CEO Paul Streets.

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This blog was originally published in the September / October edition of Third Sector.

This summer has been a sad one for me. My mother died. She was 85. She had not been well for some time, but it already feels like she leaves a huge hole, especially as my father also died three years ago, also aged 85.

Who will listen unconditionally? Who will support me whatever I do? Who knew me from the moment I arrived and has been with me ever since?

The lack of any effective family support network is one reason they end up turning to the charities we fund.

I was already aware, but have been reminded, that I’m among those lucky enough to have lived life as part of a stable, supportive family and, at times, I have taken that for granted. It is not so for many of the people we seek to reach through the charities we fund: the single homeless man; the refugee; many of those who leave prison; the woman fleeing home for a refuge; the young person who leaves care. The lack of any effective family support network is one reason they end up turning to the charities we fund.

Nothing can replace the wraparound of a supportive family, but from what I see from visiting small charities, and as evidenced by our recent report The Value of Small, this ability to provide unconditional, flexible, yet structured support is one of the main reasons small charities work. No contract would ever specify this approach and no state institution could ever provide it. It’s intimate, immediate and initially intangible. Yet, without that kind of support provided throughout my life I wouldn’t be the person I am.

The other brief glimpse I had into the lives of the people we seek to reach was during mum’s tortuous last two weeks, as she experienced the ill effects of a well-meaning and benign, but confused and disconnected NHS. She was told one thing, then another. Doctors dropped in and out, issuing rapid verdicts, then leaving the excellent nurses to pick up and interpret the pieces. At times it felt like she was an interesting case study. It was agonising. Yet we as family faced all of that with her, as advocates.

For many, those charity staff represent the only people “in the corner” of their beneficiaries

It reminded me that small charities are family in all but name for people with chaotic lives. They’re the people advocating and joining up different state actors: welfare agencies, social services, health services, housing, the police and criminal justice system, and so on.

For many, those charity staff represent the only people “in the corner” of their beneficiaries, reading letters for people who aren’t able to, arranging transport to appointments or appealing decisions made in offices based on statistics for people who don’t value themselves enough to know they deserve better. In my mum’s final weeks it felt like my family had given over control. It’s hard to imagine how that must feel when that’s all you know.

No wonder it is to so hard to turn people’s lives around. We are so lucky to have dedicated people on the front line of thousands of charities around the country committed to trying to do just that.

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PR for Charities: When hitting the headlines really helps

When you’re stretched for time and demand for your services is rising, PR often finds its way to the bottom of the small charity to-do list. In this blog Lloyds Bank Foundation Communications Manager, Annie Abelman explains why charities should think more about PR and how hitting the headlines can be a big help to even the smallest charities.

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Julie Hesmondhalgh as Trish Winterman in Broadchurch

For those of us working in Comms, media coverage often feels about as regular as buses. One minute it’s a battle to get just one bit of press coverage, but as soon as a good journalist breaks a story, all competing media outlets are clamouring for a piece of the action.

At Lloyds Bank Foundation many of the small charities we fund see media coverage as a fairly low priority. With resources scarce and demand rising, it’s hard enough to pay the salaries of staff delivering services to people in great need, and any charities with spare cash are often paying professional fundraisers or bidwriters to bring in desperately important new revenue streams. Not only is a press officer a luxury most of our grantees can’t afford, we also find that most of our Chief Execs are too hands-on to hanker after what may seem like self-aggrandizing press interviews and photoshoots when there are people who urgently need their services.

So why does media coverage matter?

In the right context, positive press coverage can be a huge asset for charities. Back in 2016 we saw that the BBC’s Archers storyline led to a 20% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline. This storyline brought a taboo topic into the public domain in a way that didn’t compromise any confidentiality or safety (as can often be a PR hazard when using a beneficiary case study) because the outcry of public support was for the fictional – albeit realistic – character, Helen. Many of the charities funded by the Foundation talked about the significant benefits of this storyline on their local domestic abuse outreach and support services. When it came to fundraising or stakeholder relationship building, doors were opened to them and they found new opportunities to make the case for their services. With hindsight, many charities said they should have done more to use the national storyline to capitalise on telling their local stories – finding that local people had been moved to set up fundraising pages for Women’s Aid, not realising a charity in their neighbourhood and could really use lasting support too. Once it had gathered speed, there was very little way to redirect this growing momentum.

The local publicity of Dorset Rape Crisis Centre means more vulnerable people have been made aware of the local service there to help them and given confidence that their story will be listened to.

More recently, our grantee Dorset Rape Crisis Support Centre benefited from press coverage around their involvement in the ITV series Broadchurch. They were asked to help scriptwriters with a  storyline involving the serious sexual assault of Trish Winterman. Whilst it’s fantastic to see ITV thoroughly factchecking bold storylines that need to be handled sensitively and which will undoubtedly act as triggers for vulnerable viewers, there’s value in the consultancy relationship for the charity too. Broadchurch writer Chris Chibnall called the Sexual Violence Advisors ‘extraordinary people’ in the advice they had given, and stressed that he ‘wanted to tell this story because recorded sexual offences have been increasing year on year.’

With greater profile around an often-unspoken issue, along with local publicity of Dorset Rape Crisis Centre, more vulnerable people have been made aware of the local service there to help them and given confidence that their story will be listened to. Dorset Rape Crisis Centre has gleaned longer term support from the coverage too. Julie Hesmondhalgh, the actor that played Trish Winterman has become their patron and is helping with further profile raising and fundraising because this charity has become particularly meaningful for her.

What if my charity isn’t the topic of a TV show?

Stumbling across the situations I’ve described is darn lucky, and almost certainly wasn’t what the charities that benefited from them set out to achieve. But even if we can’t all stumble across a such a great opportunity, we can all mine the human stories that will make our supporters – or would be supporters – feel the effects of our work, not just know it.

The World in Seven Stories

It’s well known that most successful stories follow a common story arc:

 

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The reason we don’t get bored with this predictable format is that as humans we get a kick out of investing in others, hearing about obstacles they face and learning how they overcame them. As humans, stories of others having triumphed over adversity are inspiring, hopeful and make us want to be like those people or share the story with others we know.

The good news is, these are the very stories small charities delivering vital local services are rich in. They’re on theme, and for the most part, they are powerful because the stakes were as high as you can get: they’re about lives changed, or very often saved.

Why use them?

The individual human stories are what make every small charity worker work late, go the extra mile, find an extra bed in a hostel for someone in need, because their story tugged at your heartstrings. So, it’s only right to let your charity’s triumphs over adversity tug at others’ heartstrings too. Use storytelling to find the ‘why’ of your organisation and let the press spread these stories for you. If you can make your supporters, your critics, and your funders feel and not just know why it’s crucial that you are able to do what you do, it’s very hard indeed for them not to find a way to make it happen.

Ask A Grant Manager – September 2018

Carlos Chavez - Grant Manager for Yorkshire and the Humber
Carlos Chavez – Grant Manager for Yorkshire and the Humber

Carlos Chavez is our Grant Manager for Yorkshire and the Humber. He joined Lloyds Bank Foundation in March 2018. Before working with us, he was a Grant Manager at the Leeds Community Foundation for almost 12 years. In his spare time, Carlos likes to go on walks with his wife and his dog Narla – although he says his three sons have now outgrown walking with their parents.

“I really enjoy working closely with charities not just to provide resources, but the non-financial element of our work is interesting. Not many charities have the opportunity to access the kind of development support provided by our Enhance programme. The ones we partner with really value the opportunity to network and learn from each other.”


Q: Do you think the current grant making environment encourages organisations to deliver too many light touch/short term interventions so the number of people helped is higher, regardless of whether that help has any long term impact?

A: I would agree with that. Most of the grants available are small and ask charities to achieve quick results. To address complex issues, a longer time is needed.

In some cases, this is good – sometimes charities need quick funds to start projects and keep going. But if you want to achieve long term impact, you need to fund long-term. In fact, our new strategy addresses this issue, we are committing to fund charities for longer and provide more flexibility with our funding.

 

Q: Does the work of a foodbank fit with the qualifying criteria for grant applications?

A: As a stand-alone, the work of a foodbank won’t meet our funding criteria.

However, we would consider funding core costs (including a foodbank) for charities providing holistic support to people experiencing the complex social issues we fund.

For example, we fund Streets2Homes who provide many kinds of support (including washing facilities and a foodbank) to help people experiencing homelessness to find work and accommodation.

 

Q: How can I get Generators and Forklifts Maintenance and sales business setup grant funds from you?

A: This is a more complicated question. We can fund equipment maintenance under our core cost funding, providing you meet our eligibility criteria.  We also have our Enable grants to help charities develop, but these don’t cover fundraising or capital costs such as setting up a social enterprise.

I would recommend getting in touch with your local grant manager to discuss the details of your funding request. If you don’t already have their details, you can call our London office on 0370 411 1223 and they will put you in touch.

 

Q: Do you give grants to charities based in Jersey, Channel Islands?

A: Grants to the Channel Islands are made by the Lloyds Bank Foundation for the Channel Islands. They are a separate organisation and have their own criteria. To find out more, contact Jo Le Poidevin by telephone on 01481 706360 or email jlepoidevin@lloydsbankfoundation.org.uk.


Have  a question you want to ask our Grant Managers? Submit your questions here.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter so you can see the answers. 

Doing More Together

Baroness Rennie Fritchie, DBE, is Chair of Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales. As part of this role she recently travelled to visit some Lloyds Bank branches in Wales to learn about how the bank and the Foundation can do more to support local charities in their communities.

Baroness Rennie Fritchie Chair, Lloyds Bank Foundation meets with the bank employees and meets the Eiriol Charilty at Carmarthen, Wales, UK
Baroness Fritchie (centre) with LBG colleagues and Foundation Grant Manager, Mike Lewis (right) during their recent trip to Wales

In my capacity as Chair for Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales I have just spent two fascinating days meeting two of the 76 charities we support in Wales with grants totalling £4,108,492, and with Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) staff in Swansea and Carmarthen. The purpose of my visits was to better directly link the local charities we support with their local branches and to see if we can do more together to make a difference. With the help of Carys Williams, LBG Ambassador for Wales and Mike Lewis, our own Grant Manager, we got straight to the task in hand.

What Does the Foundation Actually Do?

Baroness Rennie Fritchie Chair, Lloyds Bank Foundation meets with the bank employees and meets the Eiriol Charilty at Carmarthen, Wales, UKAs an independent charitable trust funded by LBG, the Foundation partners with small and medium-sized charities who help people overcome complex social issues and rebuild their lives. We are passionate about the local focus of the charities because these are the people who best understand the place, the geography, the history, the need, the people and the community in which they work. They keep on going and delivering whatever is needed rather than stopping when they have fulfilled the requirements of a contract. They spot trends and patterns and early warning signs and work out innovative ways to deal with them.

My mission in Wales this week was to help to make LBG staff more aware of the extraordinary charities we’re funding locally.

We work with around 700 charities at any one time and in a time of growing need, we need to find ways of doing more. LBG gives us a percentage of their profit which enables us to fund and develop these vital charities. And staff within the branches and across the company also contribute volunteering hours, with more than 400 working with us as ongoing Charity Mentors to charity senior leaders, and others supporting charities on a one-off basis with their skills, or applying for matched giving through the Foundation for up to £500 of fundraising per individual for a charity.

Making A Local Difference

My mission in Wales this week was to help to make LBG staff more aware of the extraordinary charities we’re funding locally. How much better might we be if we worked together to make a local difference?all_2018_07_31_Lloyds_bank_foundation_4685.jpg

In Swansea we heard from Momena Ali, Founder and Chair of Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team (EYST), and the charity’s Director Rocio Cifuentes. We learned from them, and the volunteers we met about how EYST has expanded its initial remit from supporting BME young people, to families and individuals of all ages living across Wales.

We had wide ranging conversations about their work, and how more engagement from local bank staff could help them. In particular, one conversation which is still resonating with me was around the difference in support available for those with recognised refugee status as opposed to the very little available for those in the Asylum Seekers category. This is clearly an area where more influence and raised awareness would make a positive difference.

I was also blown away by the dozens of enthusiastic, energetic and professional members of LBG staff I met.

In Carmarthen, together with LBG staff we met with EIRIOL, a Mental Health Advocacy Charity which has been going some 14 years. They brought a wide range of representatives, including staff, board members, as well as two people from the Local Health Board and a Council Member. This wide range of representatives ably demonstrated their strength in local cross organisational working to support and advocate for people with mental health issues. We were hosted by the Mayor of Carmarthen, Emlyn Schiavone, who welcomed us and then, with real commitment, stayed on for all the discussions.

Baroness Rennie Fritchie Chair, Lloyds Bank Foundation meets with the bank employees and meets the Eiriol Charilty at Carmarthen, Wales, UK
Mike Lewis, Grant Manager with Carys Williams, LBG Ambassador for Wales

EIRIOL’s work is increasing, their evaluation work was impressive and the team working across agencies was a real example to all. With the help of Carys Williams, we explored ways of making finding synergistic ways of bank staff, the Foundation and the charity working together to make a greater difference. And these conversations were just the starting point for more reflection and strategising.

A Lasting Impression

When I set out I was hopeful that with passionate and committed charities we could do more to partner with them. However I was also blown away by the dozens of enthusiastic, energetic and professional members of LBG staff I met, some of whom had been with the Bank over 30 years, some only six months, but all proud of the work they do and the Bank they work for. It was clear just how much care they take with vulnerable customers, demonstrating how customers really do come first. If we can harness some of this passion to the local charities we partner, then amazing things could happen. 

The Lloyds Bank Foundations provide valuable support and advice to small but vital local charities across the UK. As Ambassador for Wales, it is important to me that we make sure our colleagues and the charities supported by the Foundations have the opportunity to get to know each other and find ways to help people together. Bringing Baroness Fritchie, Mike Lewis, the charities and branch colleagues together over the two days was a great way to kick this off. The feedback I’ve received from colleagues involved in the two days has been incredible and I know that, as a result, our relationships with the charities will become deeper and enduring. – Carys Williams, Group Ambassador Wales.

Paul Streets: The devil of the Civil Society Strategy lies in the delivery

We should applaud the supportive tone. We should welcome the commitments to smaller charities. But we should equally question the lack of concrete proposals, writes our CEO Paul Streets.

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This blog was originally posted in Third Sector on 10 August 2018.

The long-awaited Civil Society Strategy  has been published. There’s much to welcome, especially its tone. Even in the ministerial foreword the strategy recognises the “pressures civil society is under” and the “extraordinary job” it does alongside the role of government as an “enabler”, citing the strategy as “the beginning of a process of collaboration”.

As Lloyds Banking Group’s corporate foundation, it is good to see the recognition for cross-sector support in addressing societal issues, and the important pressure of ethical consumerism.

Crucially, there is a recognition of the importance of giving charities more of a voice, allowing them to feed into policy and taking steps to strengthen their confidence around campaigning. The strategy sets out promising plans around new guidance on commissioning for small and local charities and also around new approaches to strengthening social value.

It is broad in scope, encompassing civil society as inclusive of all activities whose “primary purpose is social value, independent of state of control” and, critically, the role of government more broadly in enabling that. While charities are at the heart of a strong civil society, as Lloyds Banking Group’s corporate foundation, it is good to see the recognition for cross-sector support in addressing societal issues, and the important pressure of ethical consumerism.  We see first-hand how valuable a truly responsible approach to business can be – not just in terms of funding but in skills transfer and in-kind support. Public, private and social sectors need to work better together.

And it is helpful to see supportive acknowledgement of the role of civil society from other government departments, having long called for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to influence the approach to the voluntary sector across government as an exemplar.

The breadth and scope of the strategy risks the government appearing as a convenor, rather than the central actor it needs to be. So while it’s a good framework, the devil will be in the delivery.

But this scope and breadth is also its weakness. It risks being everything and nothing.

Without concrete action on issues such as commissioning and joint working, there is a risk that this is simply warm words. We will watch with interest to see what replaces the community rehabilitation companies contracts under Transforming Rehabilitation given recent commitments by the Justice Secretary David Gauke: a critical litmus test for whether DCMS has the clout it needs.

The strategy recognises the need for “new approaches in communities that have not benefited from growth” but it fails to translate that recognition into tangible and targeted action to address the most marginalised people and places. This is a critical issue for small and local charities working right at the coalface.

And while it hints at the potential significance of dormant assets and The UK Shared Prosperity Fund, small nuggets are offered rather than the wholesale and targeted significant investment where it is needed most.

We have elsewhere highlighted the critical need for the sector to rethink sustainability post-austerity but doing this will require commitment and clarity of purpose and not just from the sector but from government. Without this there is a risk that what could be large amounts of money are frittered away on disconnected piecemeal approaches. We need to see these opportunities as we did the post-war Marshall plan, an opportunity to restructure the support we provide to the most in need in society and to the poorest places – alongside more effective welfare provision, which doesn’t get a mention.

The breadth and scope of the strategy risks the government appearing as a convenor, rather than the central actor it needs to be. So while it’s a good framework, the devil will be in the delivery. Can DCMS translate these welcome and very broad intentions into tangible and substantive action on the ground?

Paul Streets: The value of small is far bigger than imagined

A visit to the buzzing Hive Avon in Bristol brought home the value of small charities, writes our CEO Paul Streets.

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This blog was originally posted in Third Sector on 31st July 2018.

The Hive Avon works with people who have learning disabilities and their families in Bristol and surrounding areas. It is based in an unprepossessing building some way up a hill beside a shabby garage on the outskirts of Bristol. It has one full-time staff member, a couple of part-timers – including the chief executive – and about 30 volunteers. It has an income of about £100,000 a year. When I visited earlier this year it was celebrating its 50th year and was buzzing with people and ideas for how it could do more.

The research is clear: small and local charities make a real difference to individual lives, they help local economies and are often the glue that binds communities together.

The charity’s Bringing Independent Lives Together programme brings together parents and their disabled sons and daughters in separate structured sessions to tackle the tough questions about how ageing parents help their children to plan for a life after they’re gone. It’s challenging stuff. The first parent-focused session starts with discussion on what happens when they die and the consequences for their children, some of whom might be in their fifties, but still live at home.

Many people with learning disabilities who live with their parents don’t make basic life decisions for themselves, such as when to get to up, what to wear or what to eat. Hive talks parents through what they can do to help their children become more independent. Some of those who access Hive’s projects are hidden from statutory services because their needs are not acute. They don’t have social workers, they have no personal independence plans and nor are they on housing lists. Instead, it’s all “been kept in the family”.

Adults with learning disabilities who’ve made the break to live independently provide useful role models at this time. This sharing of lived experience, fears and hopes is critical, but it is possible only through the hard work of the charity. About 250 families receive support from Hive, and it is vital stuff.

Small Charities Week took place between 18 and 23 June. It was an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the work of the thousands of small charities such as Hive. But welcome as it was to have that focus for a week, too much debate and policy in government, and within our own sector, focuses on the much fewer, much larger charities.

Small charities need all our help to enable them to do and be their best. That’s why they need to be at the front and centre of the government’s forthcoming civil society strategy.

That’s why the research The Value of Small, commissioned by the Lloyds Bank Foundation but done independently by academics, is so important. Published during Small Charities Week, it concludes that size does indeed matter and there is something clearly distinctive in who small and local charities work with and how.

The research is clear: small and local charities make a real difference to individual lives, they help local economies and are often the glue that binds communities together. Yet there is a critical mismatch between the benefits, distinctiveness and value of small and local charities and the way commissioning is undertaken. Eighty-four per cent of local government spending on charities is now going to larger charities as they shift from grants to ever-larger contracts. This is despite the clear benefits of small charities to local communities and economies.

Small charities need all our help to enable them to do and be their best. That’s why they need to be at the front and centre of the government’s forthcoming civil society strategy.

So, are pessimists better at risk management?

As part of our work to help develop the charities we partner with we’ve been working with Lloyds Banking Group to develop a new Risk Management Toolkit to help charities plan for those things that could go wrong. Kay Cameron, Volunteering Programmes Manager tells us more.

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Avoid those organisational banana skins.

I’m an optimist. The prospect of devoting time to scrutinise all the things that might go wrong doesn’t hold much appeal. If, unlike me, you’re of a more pessimistic persuasion perhaps this idea fills you with glee. Well … maybe not glee.

Risk management has an image problem. It can seem dry, laborious and too rigid to apply in small charities.

Risk management is a key aspect of charity governance. Understanding the risks your charity faces and managing those risks will support planning and inform decision making. A strong risk management system enables you to ensure effective and safe practice and equips you to make the most of opportunities to secure your charity’s future.

So, are pessimists better at risk management? Not at all. Good risk management requires the best of both mindsets. Harness the resilience of the optimist and the caution of the pessimist and you’re on to something.

So far so good, but just because something is worth doing doesn’t make us want to do it. Risk management has an image problem. It can seem dry, laborious and too rigid to apply in small charities. That’s where the Foundation’s new Risk Management Toolkit comes in. It’s been developed with Alyson Armstrong and Sue Cooke of Lloyd’s Banking Group, both seasoned risk managers. Even better, they’re longstanding Charity Mentors who have supported their matched charities in developing robust risk management strategies. The toolkit demystifies risk management, providing small charities with right sized, practical step by step guidance.

The Risk Management Toolkit may help you to take the first steps towards a more rigorous approach or give you a benchmark to review your existing practice.

Do you need more convincing that a risk management system will benefit your charity?

Let’s debunk a few myths:

“Risk management is unwieldy and complex. It’s all about incomprehensible spreadsheets.”

No! Well … it involves a table (you can use a spreadsheet). But it shouldn’t be incomprehensible.As with any management process, the tools need to work for you, not the other way around. The Risk Management Toolkit walks you through five simple linked steps from identifying your risks through to monitoring the process. It may be true that the size and content of your risk register will reflect the size and complexity of your operations, but the process should remain straightforward and manageable.

“Risk is inherent in what we do. We can’t manage risk away.”

Risk management isn’t about eliminating every risk. Even if this were achievable or desirable, it’s unlikely that you’d have the resources to make it happen. Despite the prevailing environment of uncertainty, exposing risks to the light helps organisations to feel more stable. What risk management can deliver is the opportunity to regularly take stock of your risks and agree realistic responses to reduce these to acceptable levels. It’s not an exercise in crystal ball gazing, and it won’t predict the unpredictable, but you can apply your insights and experience to uncover those risks that you can prepare for. After all, forewarned is forearmed.

“It’s not a priority and I don’t have the time.”

‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’ Benjamin Franklin may not have called it risk management, but his point still applies. By formalising your approach to risk management, you can better safeguard your service users. Increasingly, funders, commissioners and partners are scrutinising charities’ risk management capabilities, so a strong framework may pay dividends in growing and sustaining your work.Robust risk management is never the domain of a single person in an organisation, its everyone’s business. While there is a need for someone to take the lead and coordinate, risks associated with any activity are best identified and managed by the people delivering that work.

While it’s true that risk management isn’t a one-off activity, by embedding risk awareness into everything you do you can streamline your approach. And, in the end, by investing in risk management you save time by avoiding and minimising the problems that arise when things go wrong.

“An informal approach will suffice. If it’s not broken, why fix it?”

As organisations – and as individuals – we routinely manage risk when making day to day decisions. By formalising the process, however, you’re installing an early warning system. You gain an organisation-wide lens on your aggregate risks and you can apply a common approach to managing these risks. A risk management framework gets all your staff and projects steering in the same direction. People know what’s expected of them and have the tools and information to deliver. In some settings, formalising the process will require a cultural shift, but the arguments for taking risk seriously are persuasive. Risk management gives people more – not less – control over what they do.

Are you persuaded? Whether you’re new to risk management or further down the road, it’s worth reading the Risk Management Toolkit. It may help you to take the first steps towards a more rigorous approach or give you a benchmark to review your existing practice. Optimists and pessimists will find it equally beneficial.