Profile - Berkshire Community Foundation

Published: 13 Jun 2012 09:30

Meeting needs of charities

ANDREW Middleton is chief executive of the Berkshire Community Foundation, a charity founded in 1985 that works with voluntary groups to tackle needs at the grassroots level in the Berkshire community.

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Andrew joined the organisation in May 2008 having run the Cornwall Community Foundation for a number of years.

He is an inspirational leader and in the last four years the Berkshire Community Foundation has blossomed under his nurturing hands.

However it has not all been plain sailing, especially in today's tough economic climate.

Harnessing business knowledge

When asked about his approach, Andrew states that his background in business has definitely contributed to his success.

Having had a distinguished career in IT working with North American and European blue chip companies such as American Express, BA, Vodafone and IBM, Andrew made a brave decision to take his knowledge and expertise into the voluntary sector.

Nowadays, however, he is often frustrated that the Berkshire Community Foundation is not better known.

Andrew's goal moving forward is to get the message out to local donors and charities who he states often do not realise they have a funding problem until it is too late - which is where the Berkshire Community Foundation can help.

Community foundations exist to deliver philanthropic advice, expert grant-making services, community leadership and to build endowment.

The Berkshire Community Foundation was set up with the sum of £500 and from these humble beginnings the Foundation last year made grants totalling more than £500,000 to community groups and projects in Berkshire.

Today, the Foundation manages endowed funds to the value of more than £7.5m.

Its mission is to inspire local giving to change lives and its purpose is to promote and support local giving for social good, benefit or change in Berkshire. In particular, the Berkshire Community Foundation aims to support smaller charitable groups who are providing vital work but may have problems raising funds.

Andrew comments: "Many charities are really struggling in today's difficult economic conditions.

"As a sector, we rely heavily on contributions from high net worth individuals and companies. The recent Budget hasn't really helped our cause."

Providing a vital link

In 2010/2011 the Foundation rewarded £694,756 to 331 local projects and 23 individual children funds. Andrew says that the Foundation is committed to making giving as easy, quick and tax-efficient as possible.

He adds: "Monitoring and evaluation of grants awarded means that donors can also be assured their charitable giving is getting to where it is really needed."

The Foundation provides a vital link between donors and local needs, connecting people with causes and enabling individuals and organisations to achieve far more than they ever could by themselves.

It vets all charities and by applying in-depth knowledge of the community, the Foundation awards grants to a wide range of projects, targeting funding for greatest impact and finding solutions that help meet needs.

"We estimate that £9 out of every £10 donated in Berkshire provides benefit outside the county," commented Andrew.

"As a result, many of our local charities and voluntary groups are currently at risk and need help now.

"This is why we recently launched a Think Local, Give Local campaign.

"Our vision is to create a strong generous community in Berkshire where people work in partnership to enhance the quality of local life.

"I want to inspire more philanthropy and charitable giving in our region - connecting people, ideas, resources and needs to make a lasting difference."

Understanding needs

Today, the Foundation employs just eight people as the goal is to keep bureaucracy and staff to a minimum.

Andrew states that the Foundation's main grant giving is directed to the elderly, children and young people, those with a long-term illness, disability or mental health needs, as well as minority ethnic communities and those suffering from addiction.

In terms of the challenges ahead, Andrew sees the charity landscape being deeply affected by the continuing recession and his key goal is to ensure that the Berkshire Community Foundation continues to offer stability to both donors and funders.

This means that it must be accountable and transparent in all its communication and activities.

Andrew concludes: "While many people believe Berkshire is an affluent area, each unitary authority faces a number of real and sometimes hidden problems.

"We recently commissioned research to better understand key areas of concern.

"This is important because in-depth knowledge of the high levels of deprivation that exist within Berkshire's six unitary authorities will better inform our grant-making policy which in turn will mean that funds are going to maximum use in the region."

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