I arrived at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation (HIWCF) in September this year at the most unusual of times. After many years of declining public trust in charities, during the Covid period the number of people turning to charitable sources for help, and the number of people turning to charities to help, has been extraordinary – all resulting in a significant uplift in public trust in charities. But this moment has arrived at precisely the same time as a movement towards a new critique of our shared British history, of which “charity” forms an intrinsic part – modern philanthropy really has its roots in the Victorian period of industrialisation, when Andrew Carnegie proclaimed that “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced” – suggesting even then that a more equitable society might be possible.
For me personally, the reason I have worked within the non-profit sector for over 20 years, has been because of my belief that a society which everyone – irrespective of their backgrounds or “life chances” at birth, may flourish, really is possible. I may not have put it in those exact words way back then, but increasingly, the word “equitable” is at the forefront of my mind. The HIWCF staff team and I recently undertook a workshop with our umbrella body, UKCF, about “EDI” (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) during which a slide was shown explaining the difference between “equality” – everyone getting the same thing; and “equity” – everyone getting the thing that most suits their needs. It really rung true to me as a mind-set – I volunteered with people with disabilities for many years, and whether their “diagnosis” was the same or completely different, their needs were always very different – as were their expectations of what they may need from the people around them. If I didn’t respond to what each individual needed, I genuinely wouldn’t be helping. And many of us who are parents or carers of more than one child will recognise the cry of “it’s not fair”, when you feel as a parent you have been equitable – and maybe not equal. (Or perhaps the other way around!). But what can this all mean for HIWCF?
Well, to begin with, it starts with listening. I have been meeting as many grantee partners and community groups as possible in the past few weeks, both on zoom and in person, and I have tried to spend that time listening to how they are coping and what they are facing. I am very keen on maintaining an open dialogue with the organisations that we fund, and also those who have sought funding from us. Perhaps even more so, I would like to create a dialogue with organisations who haven’t sought funding from us. For us to reach the “hardest to reach” groups, we need to understand what it is about us that make us hard to reach – because that is the thing we can change, with our goal being to reach everybody who needs support across our communities. And we are not afraid of constructive criticism: if we are not getting it right, we need to find ways to address that.
My immediate predecessor, Kate Shurety, said in our very first blog “to support vulnerable, isolated or lonely people, what is needed is not a single programme or approach – but a diverse, interconnected web of activity, services and support at the hyperlocal level so that people can thrive, grow and meet their individual challenges in a community they feel part of.”
I agree. And it’s the groups that we fund who help achieve that incredible outcome, and it’s our role to ensure that in achieving that, we are both reflective in our practice and supportive of our whole communities. At HIWCF we are incredibly lucky to have connections to a wide range of people and businesses who are in a position to help, and who value the chance they have to make an enormous contribution to our community through the funding they can make available. It is them who make it possible for us to work towards a more equitable society, and enables us to achieve that outcome. A virtuous circle if ever there was one!
So I would like to end this blog by saying – just get in touch. Phone, email, post (to our new registered address!), zoom, LinkedIn…anything. Just get in touch. I would like it to be the beginning of many conversations about how HIWCF can help all of you build equitable communities.
Phone 07823 600900
Address: HIWCF, The Orchard, White Hart Lane, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG21 4AF