Since 2014, Lloyds Bank Foundation been working with a range of partners to develop capacity building support for small and local charities, to help them thrive long after their grant has finished. We’ve piloted, tested and expanded this support and commissioned independent evaluations to identify what works and where we can improve. Our new report, Five years of Funder Plus: Five Things We Have Learned shares our learning.
As part of our report launch, Peter Cunnison, our Grant Manager for the West Midlands, recently sat down with Sonia Roberts, CEO of Landau to chat about how this type of support has changed her organisation.
Peter: Sonia, what do you remember about that initial conversation we had?
Sonia: I’ve always found the relationship I have with Lloyds Bank Foundation via Peter is very honest and open, so it wasn’t difficult to say I needed help and support. Through being able to talk frankly with Peter we identified that I was key to Landau and that made the organisation vulnerable; I didn’t want that to be my legacy. Peter then put me in touch with a consultancy to offer that support.
Peter: “Having these conversations is such a crucial part of the process. It’s also important that if a mentor or consultant doesn’t have the right experience or there isn’t the chemistry, the charity can come and talk to me so we can make sure the support works for them.
What does having access to support like the Enhance capacity building programme mean to a small charity like yours?
Sonia: Having Enhance support from Lloyds Bank Foundation was my first experience of ‘funder plus’ support. What’s so impressive about Enhance is you feel like you’re receiving a high calibre, quality expertise at a 1:1 local level. I felt a sense of responsibility to make sure I utilised that resource effectively because I appreciate that the Foundation is trying to develop Landau. You’re provided with options and then given ownership over the relationship with the consultant, but equally, I know I have Peter’s support if it’s not hitting the mark.
Peter: This can be a challenge for me as a Grant Manager; sometimes charities feel they should say yes and commit to everything. I’ve learnt that building the trust between myself and the charity and then taking the time to identify their needs means they will get the most out of the support.
You had some support around property issues, what difference did this make to you and your charity?
Sonia: I had no experience in property or building management. The Ethical Property Foundation wrote a report about what we should be doing and the stages to get there. If I’m honest, the report itself has been a hugely valuable asset – it brought kudos when I have been sourcing funding, as it adds weight being from a reputable organisation. We wouldn’t even have thought about or had the finances to do this ourselves.
You’ve previously mentioned that being a charity leader can be isolating. How has the programme helped with this?
Sonia: In the charity sector you don’t have a peer support network where you can get that unbiased, impartial advice without the threat of compromising your work, and that gets lonely. One of the areas the Foundation has really supported me is through regional peer forums. I’ve been able to learn from others’ experiences and share my own knowledge to support others in a comfortable and safe space, where I’ve really been able to develop my own and others’ leadership skills.
You’ve also been matched with Lloyds Banking Group mentor, Andrea. How did you find that?
Sonia: We recognised that we could gain a lot from some additional thinking around finance so having access to someone from the ‘banking world’ seemed like a great opportunity, but it was also a chance to bring in someone new and impartial to give an honest opinion about the reputation of Landau. She went on to become a trustee of the charity.
Peter: It’s been a very strategic journey, you’ve understood how to use Enhance to strengthen your charity in a staggered approach, which is so important to its success.
How would you sum up the impact the Enhance capacity building programme has had on you and your team, and what’s the future for Landau?
Sonia: Sustainability in our sector is always difficult, especially in a charity like ours where we challenge the norms. But the support has been like a stepping stone. I have huge ambitions for our second site in Stoke and, as a result of the support, I’m now confident I know how to make it happen.
It’s given us the foundations we needed. At the start of this process, we were like a Christmas tree which was weighted at the top. Today I feel like we are a Christmas tree with the baubles spread across the levels – it’s solid and if the angel at the top falls, the tree will still stand!
If you’d like to learn more about how you can benefit from our capacity building support, please check out our website and speak to your Grant Manager.