Chief Executive's blog: June

Rosemary Macdonald reflects on learning about our county town and raising money for Swindon.

IT HAS been an interesting month of visits, two of which have helped me get a greater understanding of Trowbridge.

I had a fascinating day out in the town with Gemma Novis, one of Wiltshire Council’s new Local Area Co-ordinators. Her patch is the Seymour area of the town and her job is to get to know people in the community and identify those who are lonely and disconnected.

Statistically it has been shown that people who are isolated place greater call on services, such as health and the police, and by helping them reconnect with society, that burden can be reduced.

Gemma is an inspiration and has been out meeting so many people with a range of issues, from people who are working hard in their community to those with a lot of need.

She took us to the Seymour Community Hub, where there are some lovely people who work incredibly hard to organise a range of activities to bring people together, whether it be an art group or a fish and chip lunch club. What I found so uplifting is that this is all done by volunteers who all feel passionately that there needs to be somewhere for the community to get together. But like a lot of small groups, they struggle to get funding, volunteers and trustees.

We also met youth workers from TCAF, who we are funding. The social fabric that has in the past supported young people has largely gone it is left to groups like TCAF to pick up the young people who have nothing else to do, provide them with a purpose, keep them away from trouble and inspire them to make the best of their lives.

We are sure there are more groups out there that need funding and we want them to come forward and talk to us. It isn’t just money we have to offer. Our Funder+ programme can provide them with expertise and experience to help them develop.

Small groups are often too focused on dealing with the need in front of them, and quite understandably so. I believe it is our role to help them grow by showing them how to access bigger funding pots, attract more volunteers and trustees and to tell their story.

Also in Trowbridge I had a good meeting with Lance Allan, the town clerk. He was able to give me an overview of Trowbridge, which was really helpful. Having spoken to individual groups, it was good to get his larger perspective. He can see the benefit of working with other organisations and I see Trowbridge Town Council as a potential future partner.

 

I WAS pleased that two recipients among those who received a share of almost £89,000 in our latest round of foundation grants, were Trowbridge groups. TCAF received £15,000 over three years to support a full time youth worker, and Help Counselling, who will have a volunteer counsellor co-ordinator funded.

It is always amazing to see the wide range of groups that we fund through our grants. Also among the recipients were Youth Adventure Trust, homeless group Open Doors in Devizes and, in Swindon, Prime Theatre, the Down’s Syndrome Group and The Open Door Centre.

The disappointing thing is that there were groups in Swindon we couldn’t fund or couldn’t fund fully. We deliver grant funding on behalf of lots of donors  and some of that money is often restricted to particular areas.

We don’t have enough money aimed at the Swindon area and that is why we have launched Give Swindon, a match fund that doubles the donation when businesses or individuals commit to an endowment fund that will grow to provide an enduring resource for the town.

Endowments are important to community foundations because they are resilient and stable, they have excellent potential to grow and can far outstrip the original value of the money that was invested in the first place.

You can find out more about Give Swindon at the Switch on to Swindon event on June 6 at Nationwide in Swindon. Our team will be there to talk about the fund and are planning a buried treasure game for delegates! Come along and say hello… or maybe ‘avast me hearties’.

 

ONE OF the ways that community foundation deals with their own development is to work together with sister foundations across the South West at a bi-annual meeting where we share our innovations.

We had the opportunity to share some of the strategic projects we have been involved with in Swindon and Wiltshire  and we had a chance to hear about projects elsewhere that have worked with clinical commissioning groups and with large anchor organisations in communities. It was a really inspiring session, hearing what has and hasn’t worked.

As we get to know an area, like Trowbridge, and get to know it on the ground, as opposed to through reports and statistics, you start to see the art of what is possible. By learning from our peers, we hope we will be able to avoid some of the pitfalls as we think about the best way we can help our county.

Pictured: Rosemary Macdonald chats to Local Area Co-ordinator Gemma Novis at the Tin Church in Hilperton, Trowbridge