Part of Community Action Suffolk, and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, Suffolk ProHelp provides free professional and strategic support. Over the past two decades, the network of businesses has distributed more than £1.2million worth of expertise in kind.
The range of support Suffolk ProHelp provides – which includes architects, solicitors, surveyors, engineers, HR experts and more – can have a tremendous impact on a whole community. So far, they have helped over 1200 organisations.
When Andrew MacPherson took on role of Chairperson at the Coddenham Centre in 2019, he faced a huge challenge. Working with Treasurer, Ray Collins, and volunteers, the team worked to convert the Centre to charity status and began to plan a long-term strategy.
Despite having business experience, they decided they would benefit from professional support. So they got in touch with Suffolk ProHelp – and suddenly there was a huge range of help available.
For no charge, the board were now able to work with architect Paul Weston, quantity surveyors Castons and accountancy and business specialists MHA Larking Gowen. Thanks to Paul, they were even given three options to choose from, so they could consider how best to use the space available to them.
“The breadth of support has been invaluable,” says Andrew. “While dealing with immediate demands, we were able to maintain a future focus. The experts we worked with maintained a real balance of professionalism and creativity, helping to ensure a sustainable future for the Centre.”
“It’s about unlocking potential,” Paul adds. “The work is around how to use the space better for different community groups and their needs.”
The hard work has paid off. The Centre is a key part of the community, and already, as we ease out of lockdown, the grounds are filling with people keen to get back to tennis and other activities.
Angela Lee-Foster, Suffolk ProHelp Manager, reflects on the power of Suffolk ProHelp.
“I like to think of the network as professional superheroes piloting in to help an organisation solve an issue or move forward in some way,” she says. “In the current situation, we really want to help community organisations bounce back stronger. We’ve all realised how much we can support the community through this pandemic.”
Why would businesses want to get involved in the first place? According to Angela, it’s an intrinsic part of responsible business.
“It enhances a firm’s reputation and creates opportunities for staff development and network,” she says, “but most of all it has an ethical dimension.”
As well as this business-to-organisation support, Suffolk ProHelp has delivered ‘learning lunches’ as another way to share expertise. With the outbreak of Covid-19, these became webinars, and recently the network launched their new podcast. Anyone keen to hear more can listen to professionals and the organisations they have helped, as well as experts sharing their expertise on a key theme.
For more information about Suffolk ProHelp, visit: suffolkprohelp.org.uk
All images provided by Coddenham Community Centre. Credit to Georgie Kerr.