How Volunteering Can Sharpen Your Professional Skills

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Nick Magee (left) and Innes Hall (centre) with Cathy Jerrard (right) of Peninsula Initiative Community Chaplain in Exeter.

We recently caught up with Nick Magee and Innes Hall, who work at Lloyds Banking Group, on their experience as Charity Mentors.

Charity Mentors are Lloyds Banking Group staff who volunteer their time and expertise to help charities funded by the Foundation.

The mentors use their skills to help support the charity they work with, providing specific expertise in areas such as marketing, digital, HR, business planning, financial management as well as more general soft skills gained through their career with Lloyds Banking Group.

Nick and Innes have been mentoring Cathy Jerrard of Peninsula Initiative Community Chaplain in Exeter for the last 18 months. Here’s what they had to say about why they became Charity Mentors, and how the experience has helped them build their own skills:

Innes’s story:
Innes and Cathy‘I became a mentor through my colleague who was already part of the scheme who encouraged me to get involved. Initially I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to offer as a mentor, but it’s been a really worthwhile experience.

‘It’s been great for me to come in and learn so much about how charities work and the issues they’re facing but also how my skills can help support Cathy in meeting some of those challenges.

Often, I think you forget the skills you have or at least undervalue them.

‘Often, I think you forget the skills you have or at least undervalue them. It’s been great to be able to support Cathy in a range of areas and realise that those skills I have can be useful outside the context of my day job.

‘Cathy has so much experience and I’ve learnt a lot her from her too about how things work in charities and different ways of doing things. My experience working with Peninsula has made me stop and think a lot in my day job about what we’re doing and how.

‘The things we’ve talked about have really been guided by the relationship we have and Cathy’s needs and the needs of the charity. I’ve been able to help support her with issues around the board as well as pull other bank colleagues in to add more specialised support for their brand refresh project and accounting needs.’

Nick’s story:

Nick and Carthy‘It might sound cheesy but for me it was about helping people. It’s something different from my day to day job but what’s great about the scheme is that Lloyds support you to do it. Initially I overheard Innis talking about it and was keen to get involved. He invited me to take part in a call with Cathy and now I’m here. And it’s been great to have Lloyds’s support to do it. They really throw their support behind the mentoring scheme.

It’s a relationship that works both ways. We’ve had conversation where we’ve gone through Cathy’s projects and weeks later I’ll be talking to someone else and something we discussed or a learning from that session comes to me and impacts on my own work.

‘For me, what’s great about the Charity Mentoring is the relationship. It’s not about us telling Cathy what to do, or even just me using my skills from my role with Lloyds to help her with the same issue, it’s often about just talking things through and helping to find best way of doing things and thinking about issues in a different way.

‘It’s a relationship that works both ways. We’ve had conversation where we’ve gone through Cathy’s projects and weeks later I’ll be talking to someone else and something we discussed or a learning from that session comes to me and impacts on my own work. It’s been really valuable in that sense too.

‘I think coming from the corporate world being a mentor and being involved in this great charity has made me a more well-rounded colleague in my day job and probably a more well-rounded person too. It’s given me another perspective on things and another string to my bow.’

Cathy says:
Cathy‘The brilliant thing about the Foundation is not only the financial support but the additional support they offer. The opportunity to have a mentor from the bank, someone with a whole different set of experiences was a really exciting one for us. The best support we’ve had are our mentors Innes and Nick.

‘They’ve helped me think through things about our strategy. They’ve involved other departments of the bank to help with certain areas – like Sophia, who is in the branding department, she’s been helping us to think about refreshing our branding and reviewing our website and upgrading our whole approach to communication.

‘Having a mentor, it’s about having someone to talk about things with. Knowing these guys have all this knowledge and experience that we can tap into. It’s been invaluable.’


If you have a grant with us and would like to find out about being matched with a Charity Mentor please contact your local Grant Manager.

If you are an employee of Lloyds Banking Group and would like to find out more about being a Charity Mentor, contact Kay Cameron, Volunteering Programmes Manager: kcameron@lloydsbankfoundation.org.uk or call 0370 411 1223.

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Paul Streets: Leeds charity that provides solace to asylum seekers

Solace is just one of many refugee charities supported by Lloyds Bank Foundation writes our CEO Paul Streets. 

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This blog was originally published in Third Sector on 5 February 2019.

I recently visited Solace, a local charity in Leeds that focuses specifically on asylum seekers, who have unique needs within the broader refugee community.

It’s one of many refugee charities supported by the Lloyds Bank Foundation, many of them located in the “dispersal” cities and towns where, after being “processed”, refugees are sent to “settle”. Unable to work while their asylum pleas are being considered, they become dependent largely on local organisations just to survive. That’s the reason Refugee Action – a larger charity than we can fund – is fighting to Lift The Ban on employment, not just because refugees want to work, but because enforced worklessness demeans those who at home would often be regarded as industrious and highly skilled.

Ahead of my visit to Solace, I’d read how one of its psychotherapists, Divine Charura, describes what it means to work with asylum seekers. He talks of their complex psychological journeys, in which they address trauma, displacement and the loss of people, identity and homes. They’re forced to process complex mental health diagnoses while seeking out the basics, such as food and shelter.

He shares the challenges of conducting sensitive counselling sessions with interpreters in languages for which there might be no direct equivalent for some terms, or for people who might be used to different cultural norms – such as appointments not being scheduled by clocks and therapy sessions aren’t limited because “the hour is coming up now”.

When I met Kathryn, the chief executive, and Sarah, a therapist, their stories completed the picture, revealing how small and holistic charities like theirs are best equipped to address issues like these. They told me that people arrive in waves from different destinations, the current wave being dominated by Iranians and Eritreans.

Solace offers a wide range of support, but its core offer is psychotherapy, including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) and body psychotherapy. Almost always this is provided alongside practical support around housing and access to legal aid.

Sarah’s descriptions (of a woman they helped, who had pain on the left-hand side of her body because she was hurt by a right-handed man, or of another who was recovering from the horror and humility of being raped on the streets) backed up what charities have long been telling us: that leaving family, friends and homes in favour of risk and almost certain danger is a sign of refugees’ true desperation.

When they arrive they are broken and they need rebuilding from the inside out. Sarah says women like these often see Solace as like family, seeking to make them proud, even when she has very little furniture and no money.

Solace is fortunate to be based in Leeds, one of the UK’s few Cities of Sanctuary, where enlightened commissioners such as the local clinical commissioning group recognise that dealing with this kind of trauma is beyond anything they can do and trust local charities like Solace, who step up to provide this kind of highly specialised, well-rounded support package.

Solace reaches 147 people each year for as long as they need it, a flexibility that commissioners recognise is a critical component of a service which, were it provided by them, would have to be limited to a standardised approach.

Without Solace and other charities like it, more refugees and asylum seekers would be homeless and destitute. But with the right support many will become valued members of society, contributing the entrepreneurialism and prosperity that has characterised successive waves of refugees right back to the Huguenots, who fled persecution in France in the 16th century and who first coined the word “refugee” from the French “refugie” and the Latin “refugium”, a noun meaning “hideaway”.

Festive Fundraising? Shop online and it’s easier than you think!

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Thinking about festive fundraising? As the Christmas season gets into full swing our Grant Manager for the North West, Ella Sips blogs on how, charities can make the most of this bumper shopping season with a simple solution to raising extra funds online.

My conversations with the charities we fund always includes the subject of fundraising. It is at the forefront of every charity CEO’s mind and can sometimes feel like painting the Forth Bridge; a never-ending task.

For most, fundraising is a necessity – something that must be done to continue delivering a charity’s much needed services. Small charities, more than most, recognise that having a variety of funding sources puts you on more secure ground, reducing the negative impact from funding cuts if (and when) they happen. But for CEOs and Fundraisers alike, the holy grail of fundraising is unrestricted funding – the money that allows you to do everything from developmental work, to running pilots, building up your reserves or even plugging the unavoidable budget deficits.

Raising money, the hard way

Someone once said, the best fundraising is when others do it for you. The success of sites like Just Giving and Virgin Money Giving are a testament to that. Whether having enthusiastic supporters packing bags in a supermarket or a friend or family member running a marathon in support of your charity, this type of fundraising significantly contributes to the sector’s unrestricted funds.

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Festive fundraising? There’s an easier way.

But there are other, easier ways to launch a fundraising campaign for your charity that require very little effort if running a marathon (and the inevitable blisters that come with it) is not for you. I’m thinking online shopping here, and with Christmas around the corner, it’s a good time to think about how your charity can capitalise on the season of gift-giving. Most people do it, but we don’t all realise that our online activity can raise cash for charities without leaving the comfort of our chairs.

Armchair Fundraising

There are a growing number of platforms to choose from. Amazon Smile is a recent initiative, alongside the more established sites like Give As You Live, the Giving Machine and Easy Fundraising. It’s a no brainer really, as a customer you sign up and choose a charity to support. As a charity it’s free and easy way to generate a bit of extra income. Two extra clicks of the mouse before you start and by doing your shopping through affiliated websites every pound you spend gives a little back to a good cause. The benefit can be, on average, 2% of what you spend, and number can go even higher on certain things like holidays or insurance.

Do this in isolation and the returns will be low, but this is where people power comes in. If you invest a bit of time on social media spreading the word about your charity’s ask, the £35 raised in a year by one supporter becomes £350 by 10, and £3,500 by 100. Just think how much unrestricted income the 43.5 million digital shoppers in the UK could raise for charities!

So, as you and your supporters start thinking about stocking fillers for loved ones, and with online shopping more popular than ever, why not think a bit more about how two extra clicks could create a line in your next year’s budget?

It’s a gift that really does keep on giving!

Paul Streets: The local charities that reach ‘invisible’ people

Niche organisations matter – they embody ‘lived experience’, writes our CEO Paul Streets.

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This blog was originally published in the November / December 2018 edition of Third Sector magazine.

As a sector we have quite rightly been challenged to demonstrate our connection to the lives of those we exist for.

Large organisations frequently set up complicated, sometimes expensive mechanisms to do this. And they often don’t work, becoming highly unrepresentative or tokenistic.

But for many small local organisations it’s part of their DNA. I recently visited two charities with our London grants manager that exemplify this, but which highlighted for me that it’s not as common practice as it should be.

The CSO team has plans to use a Lloyds Bank Foundation grant to meet the demand of service users. It will create employment and business support for recently arrived refugees, in a community with many talented entrepreneurs.

The Council of Somali Organisations is an umbrella body of more than 100, often small, Somali groups, mainly in London. It has only one full-time employee and four part-time staff. By contrast, the Latin American Women’s Rights Service is much longer established, with a team of 20-plus.

The CSO believes there are about 400,000 people in Britain who call themselves Somali, although no one knows for sure because the data lumps all “Africans” together.

And the LAWRS estimates there are about 250,000 Latin Americans in the UK.

But the factors that brought these migrant populations to the UK are different.

The CSO and the LAWRS illustrate why local niche charities matter: they embody “lived experience”, reaching people and places invisible to most of us.

Britain has a historical connection with Somalia, with sailors serving in the Navy in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the chaos of Somali civil war driving a more recent exodus. Many Latin Americans came here for economic reasons, yet sadly often occupy menial employment here, as cleaners or, more tragically, trafficked as sex workers.

Both charities are largely run, staffed and led by their communities, and it’s this that drives their ambition.

The CSO team has plans to use a Lloyds Bank Foundation grant to meet the demand of service users. It will create employment and business support for recently arrived refugees, in a community with many talented entrepreneurs.

Lucila Granada, director of the LAWRS, told me about the women she serves. Some were facing abuse from violent partners or severe domestic exploitation. She also spoke of people experiencing “honour-based violence”,”corrective rape” forced upon gay women, forced abortion or pregnancy. Intra-family rape is often unrecognised to “protect the family”.

Combined with the undocumented status of many of the victims, or the fact that their continued residency is sometimes dependent on EU nationals, you have a number of crimes that are often unspoken and rarely reported.

It’s why the LAWRS is running its Step up Migrant Women campaign. It is making headway in its influencing work with the London Victims Commissioner and the Mayor of London, bringing together about 30 local and national supporters, including Amnesty International and Liberty. But it has some way to go.

It’s hard enough to contemplate how domestic abuse victims cope, even with possible recourse through the law, and many of these people can’t even count on that. So it makes sense that you’d need a charity that speaks your language – literally and figuratively – to fill that gap.

The CSO and the LAWRS illustrate why local niche charities matter: they embody “lived experience”, reaching people and places invisible to most of us.

Paul Streets: Local austerity stories are corroborated by the statistics

And it’s this that helps to give the sector a voice on the most pressing issues of all, writes our CEO Paul Streets.

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This blog was originally published on Third Sector on 29 October 2018.

In the last month The Mighty Redcar hit our screens – the compelling docudrama of real lives played out in a small town where austerity and de-industrialisation have taken a massive toll.

Described by The Guardian as the antidote to the “poverty porn” of Benefits Streetand the like, it’s good to finally see the story told in a way that helps to illustrate how complex social issues occur and how hard they are to overcome.

But what’s also important is that the story of the micro – a single northern seaside town – is corroborated by the macro: a wealth of stats and reports on local authority spending cuts, which together command us to sit up in our armchairs and pay attention.

The Lloyds Bank Foundation’s recent research with the New Policy Institute revealed A Quiet Crisis in the distribution of the brunt of local authority cuts.

Its analysis of government spending data in England on a range of services for adults and children facing disadvantage shows that, though it looks like some councils have done their best to protect the disadvantaged, the most deprived areas have been hit the hardest.

And, faced with the increasing demands for help, cash-strapped councils have cut spending on the preventive measures that stop problems such as homelessness or having to take children into care in the first place.

In parallel, 360 Giving data crunched by data scientists shows that the pattern of our funding for small charities maps directly onto deprivation. It’s encouraging, because at the Lloyds Bank Foundation our spend is driven entirely by demand and need: we don’t target the most deprived areas; it’s just where most of our money ends up.

While small local charities are playing a vital role in trying to fill the gaps, we’ve yet to see the rise in unmet need that A Quiet Crisis warns us of, as funding reductions play out for anything that looks like prevention and is deemed non-statutory (think youth services or Home Start).

It’s little wonder, then, that the demands on those we fund are rising inexorably at the same time as their publicly funded grants evaporate. This is a story they have been telling us repeatedly for years as they fight for survival in a society that hasn’t yet heard them.

What’s more, we also know from research by Southampton University and the ESRC, and from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, that charities do not map well onto need overall. A more recent report, Patchwork Philanthropy by The Young Foundation, used 360Giving data to show that the combined pattern of philanthropy and public spending maps poorly onto need. Camden, St Albans and Kensington & Chelsea are spending hotspots, while Mansfield, Great Yarmouth and West Lancashire are coldspots. And Blackpool has the lowest charitable spend per head, which makes no sense at all.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government response to the cuts, which said that “local authorities are responsible for their own decisions” doesn’t offer much hope. Tracey Crouch, through the Civil Society Strategy, seems to understand the need to focus on deprived areas, but it looks like she’s going to have an uphill battle to kick the ostriches at the top of the hill out of their bunkers.

Maybe it’s the link between coldspots and pro-Brexit areas that, as The Guardian’s John Harris recently flagged, could act as the catalyst. Once complex social issues start mattering to politics and power, something might happen.

As a sector, we’re now in the fortunate position of having more data than we’ve ever had to make our case, enough to make sure the parties and interests that will fight the next post-Brexit election know the facts. But knowing about a problem doesn’t translate into caring enough to act.

Given the importance of this to the people who need us most we should be testing the Civil Society Strategy’s recognition that charities should have a “voice” – lobbying act and all – to its limits, in making sure politicians of all parties heed the warnings of the charities surviving against the odds, while they’re still there to be heard.

Show us the money: what small charities need from the Budget

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Chancellor Phillip Hammond

Ahead of next week’s Budget statement, Lloyds Bank Foundation’s Policy and National Programmes Manager, Caroline Howe explains what small charities need to hear from the Chancellors statement.

Here at the Foundation we’ve been calling on Government to re-think how services for people facing complex issues are funded, to make sure those places and people who need support most can access it.

Of course, the Chancellor has a tough task: ending austerity while balancing the books and stabilising the economy over the anticipated turbulent months ahead, as anyone who has tried the Institute of Fiscal Studies NHS funding tool will know. But that shouldn’t draw our attention away from what is needed: enough money to deliver key services where they are needed.

This year the government needs to look at three key areas:

We need funding for local areas

It’s hard to miss the discussions about ‘place’. Whether it’s place-based funding, or places that have been left behind, ‘place’ even got its own chapter in the recent Civil Society Strategy. Yet research we published last month shows how local authority funding, the funding that underpins so much that happens in a place, is broken. The huge cuts to local government funding are sobering – particularly given that 97% of the cuts to services for people facing disadvantage have fallen in the most deprived fifth of local authorities. That is, the areas with highest demand. This demand is set to further grow too, with cuts in preventive services to cater for rising crisis support. Cutting preventive support might help balance the books in the short term but it will only lead to more costs long term as more people are pushed into more costly crises – as shown in housing in the graph below.

NPI - Preventive and crisis spending in housing servicesAs local councils lose out on centrally-administered funding, they are having to rely on generating their own income. Inevitably this is much harder in poorer areas. It’s difficult to foresee how under the current arrangement councils will be able to provide the services that local people need. Central Government needs to shift local authority funding to a system based on need, so that those areas with the highest service demands can afford to provide the services that people need.

We need funding for local people

That brings us on to who this is all about: local people. People are at the heart of local places yet it’s not just council funding that is bringing challenges. The benefits freeze and reduced budget for Universal Credit is making life even more challenging for people who need support. As costs of living continue to rise, it’s ever more important to end the freeze and make sure benefits align – 90% of Local Housing Allowance rates don’t cover the rents they were designed to. The result? Hardship and homelessness. One of the original key intentions of Universal Credit was to help ensure work always pays yet the cuts Government subsequently made to the Work Allowances have seriously damaged this. Small changes by Government can have a huge impact here. Research by the Child Poverty Action Group shows that if the work allowance taper rate was reduced to 55%, child poverty could be reduced by 200,000. Reducing the rate seems a small price to pay for lifting 200,000 children out of poverty.

In response to the concerns raised by a wide range of charities, MPs and others the Government has announced a new pause in the roll-out. They must now take this opportunity to fix the well documented problems that remain in Universal Credit – both the systems it uses and the levels of benefit themselves and particularly to ensure it better supports people facing complex problems. Alongside this Government needs to make sure that people can get the right support and advice they need to access the right benefits.

We need funding for local charities

Small and local charities clearly have a core role in supporting people to access the help they need. We know they’re under pressure. We’re calling on government to secure new funding for charities which are, as Theresa May would say tackling “burning injustices” across the country. There is funding that exists to help with this. It just needs to be released or allocated in a way which makes sure it reaches the organisations and communities which need it most. The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is due to replace the European Social Fund after we leave the EU. It’s critical that this funding is ring-fenced so that it can continue to support people who other agencies fail to reach – i.e. through locally rooted, small charities, and through payment mechanisms that are proportionate and appropriate such as grants.

The release of dormant assets – money in bank and building societies that has been left unclaimed – also offers opportunities to secure long term funding for local charities too. There is a clear opportunity to allocate this windfall to strategic, long term investment in charities who are the heart of a thriving civil society.

For some time we at the Foundation have been calling on government to use money available in a more effective way – through better commissioning and more use of grants for small charities. But we cannot overlook the importance of the amount of funding that is made available too. That’s why next week’s Budget is so important, for people, places and charities and why we’ve made our own submissions to government as well as joining other sector leaders ahead of the Chancellor’s statement.

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.