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.
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?
As 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?
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.
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.