Community Spirit: Essex Community Foundation
In 2011, Saffron took its giving a step further, announcing a long-term commitment to support communities and do more in the areas where branches are based. To help achieve this ambition, it started working with the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF).
Colin Field, CEO at Saffron, explains: “We’re proud to be part of the communities surrounding our branches. So many people rely on the care provided by charities and community groups, and we know a little can go a long way. Establishing an endowed fund with ECF has enabled us to build our Community Fund, so that we can give now and in the future.”
The society regularly makes donations to its endowed fund and supports this with fundraising activities to boost the amount it has to give away.
Claire Hunnable, Community Business Partner, comments: “It’s a real privilege to be able to support our local communities through the Saffron Community Fund. Working with ECF means that we are being introduced to some of the smaller, grassroots charities that do so much in local communities, but often don’t have the profile or the resources to be able to attract the funding they need.
“ECF does all the due diligence and makes recommendations for us to consider, and our panel, made up of employees and members, makes the final selection.”
In addition to giving grants to local charities and voluntary groups, in 2022, the company opened the doors to its first Saffron Community Link. Previously an empty shop unit in the heart of Saffron Walden, the building was completely refurbished to create a free-to-use space for community groups and charities.
“We know community groups often lack the facilities to host meetings or events, so we created this space to enable them to connect and thrive,” reflects Claire.
“It’s been an outstanding success. Since launching in February last year, it’s been used for over 1,125 hours by 56 different organisations and charities, including Support 4 Sight, NHS, Homestart and Citizens Advice. We’re really proud of Saffron Community Link and it’s a great example of our mutuality creating a positive difference in the community.”
“We want to build a comprehensive and sustainable approach to our giving. Through our Community Fund, volunteering, sponsorships and facilities, we want the support we give to our communities to make a positive impact now and into the future.”
Colin Field, CEO, Saffron Building Society
Support for local communities
Since Saffron Building Society set up its Community Fund with ECF, it has given away over £130,000 to local charities, and voluntary and community groups.
As well as meeting to decide on the grant recipients, the Community Fund Panel also visits them to learn first-hand about their work.
REACH, SNAP and the Lighthouse Furniture Project are among recent charities to benefit from support.
Claire Hunnable adds: “It is truly humbling to meet the everyday heroes that commit their time and energy running these organisations.”
This charity provides high-quality assessment and rehabilitation programmes, using trained horses, for adults and children suffering from physical, mental, social and/or learning disabilities.
Operations Manager Beth Lovell says: “We work hard to provide a bespoke service to our clients, helping those with physical and learning disabilities, mental health challenges, and those finding it hard to access mainstream education – and horses are at the core of everything we do.
“Our centre provides a natural environment and an alternative learning experience for those not wanting the pressure or confines of a classroom. We have happy ponies, happy staff, happy volunteers, and ultimately happy participants, and want to be able to help more people in the future.”
Established for families with children and young people who have additional needs or disabilities, more than 3,800 families across Essex access SNAP’s services.
Trust and Grants Co-ordinator, Callum Boath, comments: “SNAP has been supporting Essex families who have children with any additional need or disability for almost 30 years. All money raised helps us to continue to provide vital services including a very busy helpline, specialist parent talks, counselling, support and advice from our team of Family Support Advisers, as well as a variety of activities, therapies and clubs for children and young people.
“It is only through the support of the local business community, as well as our other fundraisers, that we can continue to be there when families need us most.”
The Lighthouse Furniture Project
This is a charity serving communities in Essex by providing low-cost, reused furniture and electrical appliances.
Operations lead, Jackie Rayner, says: “The Lighthouse Furniture Project works hard in the community to provide new and refurbished goods to people in need. We work with others to provide food parcels and the relevant items to make a house a home. With a bed to sleep in, somewhere to wash their clothes and something to cook a meal with, it gives a person or family the starting blocks to build a future.”
“Working with us and choosing to think local when it comes to giving back has lots of advantages for businesses. Involving your team in discussing the funding requests, and in making the decisions about which ones to support, is a great way to engage them in your corporate approach.
“For businesses that want to have a long-term approach to their giving, we can help them embed this value into their ethos, ensuring it is part of the company’s future.”
Perry Norton, Head of Development, ECF