Chief executive's blog: January

Chief executive Rosemary Macdonald reflects on 2019 and looks ahead to 2020.

IT IS hard to comprehend that we are at the start of another year when it seems so recently that we were looking ahead to 2019.

Last January I was resolving to bring in a new chairman, harness the enthusiasm of our new trustees and publish Wiltshire Uncovered II during 2019. Well, as Meatloaf once sang, two out of three ain’t bad. Wiltshire Uncovered II will be completed very soon and will form part of a new bank of knowledge we are sharing with the county.

I see our role at the community foundation as not just being as grant-maker but also as a provider of information and expertise to the many groups and partner organisations we work with. In addition to Wiltshire Uncovered II, we are also abut to complete a far-reaching report on poverty in Wiltshire and Swindon. Both these resources will be there for everyone to arm themselves with insight and information.

Any group can use them as the basis for grant applications and partners will be able to refer to them as touchstones in the decision-making process. We want to put all this knowledge that we have gathered to good use.

The exciting bit for us is working out how we can use technology to share all this information more effectively. Our donors and potential donors are increasingly using technology and they want to access information in a different way ­– more rapidly, more succinctly – and we have to be ready for that.

This is one for the reasons you’ll be seeing a new web site from us in the coming months. It will be more intelligently laid out and easier to navigate so that potential donors, groups and partners can find the information they need faster. I am very excited to see it take shape, our web site is our shop window and it is vitally important to get it right.

 

ONE THING we have got right is our Surviving Winter appeal and we have been overwhelmed with the support we have received so far.

Already we have matched last year’s £67,000 total and inquiries and donations are still coming in. But we know that however far ahead we get of last year’s figure, there are still many, many more people struggling in fuel poverty. We know more than 300 people will die of cold-related illness this winter so we cannot let up in asking for more donations.

I’d like to thank our partners Age UK and Warm and Safe Wiltshire for their help with the appeal, High Sherriff David Scott and also the Gazette & Herald, BBC Wiltshire, Spire FM, Swindon Link magazine, Swindon Advertiser, Swindon 105.5, Wiltshire Times, Salisbury Journal and Business Biscuit for their coverage and support. They have really helped us get the message out.

But most of all I’d like to thank all of the donors, trusts and commercial partners who have helped us already.

If you’d like to help, make someone’s life a little better as they go into 2020 you can donate here.

 

ONE OF the interesting developments of 2019 was getting to know Trowbridge far better than I had before. I have been indebted to the help I’ve had from the church, the councils and groups life TCAF and the Town Hall Trust in getting to know and understand the need there.

I am looking forward to being part of Mayor David Cavill’s information day for groups in February and continuing to get to know the voluntary organisations who are working so hard there. My ambition for 2020 is to see more of that work being inspired and funded.

It has been while looking at poverty that it has been brought home to me how life-limiting it can be. Children of low-income families have far less access to sport, art or culture. Their health is likely to be poorer, their life expectancy lower. This is as true of areas in Swindon as it is in Trowbridge.

One of the sea changes in my thinking during 2019 has been to adopt a wellbeing approach to funding. I want to approach things by looking at good work that is being done and helping to create more of it. Trowbridge is a perfect example of somewhere that needs more good things to happen and by concentrating our efforts on supporting the groups who are already succeeding I believe we can multiply that success.

 

I WOULD like 2020 to be the year I get out and meet more people from all sectors of the community. I was reminded of the joy of meeting someone with verve and an appetite to change things when I had coffee with former Swindon mayor Junab Ali.

He describes himself as a British Bangladeshi and has a real passion for his town and his adopted country. He told me that it was expected of him from an early age that he would help the community in which he lived, and he has certainly lived up to that expectation. I was struck by his passion for his Swindon Central ward and his desire to help it improve.

Meetings like that fill me with optimism for our county.

 

HERE IS another stat I’ve some across during all this research. The South West has the highest rate of formal and informal volunteering in the UK. Some 74 per cent of people volunteer at least once a year and 44 per cent give up their time for others at least once a month. That doesn’t just include turning up at a group, it could mean looking after neighbour or a friend. The South West also has the largest number of charitable organisations per head of population – 3.2 per 1,000 people. Half of these have an annual income of less than £10,000.

All this goes to show that all over Wiltshire and Swindon area there are caring, dedicated people who have seen a need on their doorstep and are getting on with addressing it. We know that people in our corner of the country are good and they relish the opportunity to help each other out. My ambition for 2020 is to uncover even more of them and help arm them with money, knowledge and inspiration to improve the lives of an even greater number of people.