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Tracey Walsh: Why foundations need to be about more than money

07 Aug 2017 Voices

Tracey Walsh says that good grant-giving can be about far more than just distributing cash – it can create a community of support to address a social problem.

If you had over £880,000 to spend, what would you do to make a difference in your local community? As a trusted philanthropic advisor and grant maker serving some of London’s most deprived boroughs, this is the reality that faces East End Community Foundation (EECF).

EECF is a needs-led grant maker; our mission is to drive philanthropy and charitable giving that responds to community needs and aspirations in East London, both now and in the future. As such, we need to do more than simply give money away.

Managing over 40 charitable funds and endowments is a huge responsibility, as we seek to get the best impact, for our donors and the community.

In the last few years, we have worked through the medium of multi-donor grants, specifically through the 20 Fenchurch Street Legacy Fund, which we won a Charity Award for.

The Fund is an innovative partnership of EECF and the developers of the iconic ‘Walkie Talkie’ building, Canary Wharf Group and Landsec. The Fund combines donations from donors of all sizes - including voluntary donations from visitors to the building’s Sky Garden - enabling everyone at 20 Fenchurch Street from large businesses to small-to-medium enterprises, to take part and make a difference. The Fund then awards money to local community projects that have a significant impact in helping local people develop the skills they need to find work. It also creates a lasting legacy, investing part of the money it raises in an endowment, to provide future funding.

We hope that our experience in developing innovative ways of working collectively will inspire other funders to think about how, as grant makers, we do more than just award money, but can be a voice for accountability, innovation and effectiveness.

As grant makers, we need to be accountable and respond effectively to the needs of a wide range of stakeholders – from local businesses and government to local people and the voluntary sector.

The vision for piloting a multi-donor, multi-year fund emerged following research, which confirmed the acute social needs in the East End and reported how residents felt about local issues, and consultation with our contacts in the business community.

As a community foundation, we believe we have a role in encouraging people to work together to have a greater impact in the local community.

Collective giving is both strategic and effective, as pooling together resources enables donors to boost their spending power and reach by working with other partners. EECF act as a convener to coordinate charitable giving in our area as, whilst many businesses are seeking to address similar social needs, there is often a lack of targeted partnership and cooperation in their approach.

We are proud that the 20 Fenchurch Street Legacy Fund has lived up to our vision to establish a fund that enables everyone to contribute and provide sustainable long-term funding; but it does take effort. A shared vision and effective communication helped to build networks within the building. We also maintained engagement with donors throughout the programme; shortlisting applications to take to a donor panel and hosting a very successful project tour to demonstrate what was being achieved on the ground.

Finally, grant making organisations also have a responsibility to pilot best practice and test out new ways of working, for the benefit of both our donors and grant applications.

We were aware that in order to adequately service a multi-donor, multi-year programme it would be beneficial to introduce a number of operational changes to increase capacity, including: launching a new online application and impact monitoring system, amending our grant criteria and introducing an expression of interest stage and shortlisting process.

It’s incredible to look back at the success of the Fund so far. Since launching in July 2015 we have awarded £194,920.00 to 7 local community projects. In 2016 we helped 247 people start their journey towards work by providing over 5,200 hours of training and supported an incredible 165 local people into work at an average cost of £1,400 per person compared to government services, which cost between £3,800 and £6,600 per person. This year we expect to be able to help 300 extra people access employment training and support through over 3,000 hours of training.

Tracey Walsh is chief executive of the East End Community Foundation, winner of the grantmaking and funding category at the Charity Awards, the annual awards for the charity sector run by Civil Society Media.

EECF won its award for its 20 Fenchurch Street Legacy Fund, which mobilised companies and employees to address worklessness in the East End of London.


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