Emma Beeston, Our Grant Manager (West of England) explains why taking the time to visit the charities we fund and build long-term relationships with them is an invaluable learning tool.
One of the best bits of my job as a Grant Manager with Lloyds Bank Foundation is that I get to visit with charities after they have been awarded a grant. These ‘monitoring visits’ come in different forms. They can be used to make sure everything is on track with a grant; or to offer any support needed; or they can sometimes be necessary when things are not going well. And they are also a valuable way to learn about the work we fund, listen to the charity’s experiences and meet with those they support.
I want to share one recent visit to Bristol-based charity One25 and what it taught me.
One25 support sex workers to exit the streets and build positive lives away from violence, poverty and addiction. I joined their outreach van on a night shift. Before I headed off with the volunteers, we had a briefing which ran through the list of vulnerable women and missing people to look out for that night. This was a sobering list of people deeply affected by drugs, abuse and mental ill health. We then spent the next few hours circling the streets of inner city Bristol. It was dry but cold and the volunteers handed out hot drinks, food and socks to the women that flagged down the van as well as personal alarms, condoms and toiletries. Each woman getting on the van was acknowledged, offered help and encouraged to attend the charity’s drop-in.
What really struck me was …
- Just how vulnerable these women are – one woman had no money and was working in order to buy tobacco; another was living with an abusive partner and could not be contacted by phone for fear he would find out.
- How amazingly committed the volunteers on the van are – this is not easy or obviously rewarding work. Some nights they may not see anyone. And the contact with women can be very brief or cut short when a client is spotted. Yet the van is out week in, week out in all weathers.
- The importance of small charities – no business would do this. The van has to go out and be where it is expected every night whatever the weather and whether or not the team sees eight women or none. It takes hard work to recruit and train up volunteers, to sort out rotas, to keep the van stocked up with donations. The van is a long-term investment with precious little immediate ‘return’.
- The importance of being there – the women working on the streets have complex needs and chaotic lives. One25 can’t make women access help. What the volunteers can do is remind these women that they are valued, have options and that support will be there whenever they are able to take it up. Yes, the van is there to give out whatever is needed from needles to umbrellas but really it is driving around with the message: ‘we care about you’.
As their Grant Manager, I already knew what One25 do. I have read through their accounts and business plans and met with staff and been in the drop-in. But from joining them on the night shift, I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation of their work.
It is important to take the time to visit the charities we fund and build long-term relationships with them. They are our partners in delivering our long-term aims and through these visits, we can offer more support and deepen our understanding of the challenges small charities face and the issues affecting the most disadvantaged people in society. This learning can shape our future direction and inform decisions.
It is important to take the time to visit the charities we fund and build long-term relationships with them.
If you want to work with us to create lasting change for people facing multiple disadvantage, we open to new applications for our Invest grants on 22nd May. Apply today.
Follow Emma on Twitter: @emmabeeston1