National Trustees’ Week runs from 7-11 November and is a time for charities and third sector organisations to celebrate the achievements of nearly 1 million trustees across the UK. All this week, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Foundation will be showcasing its own trustees and how their work reflects this year’s theme of ‘making a difference in changing times’. As our external environment continues to change, we face new challenges. The positive impact trustees make is invaluable to a sector that is now as important as ever to benefit society, we thank them for their time, commitment and effort to help communities across Hampshire and Isle of Wight thrive.
An interview with Jane Sanders, HIWCF trustee
Can you tell us a bit about your background and what attracted you to the role of HIWCF Trustee? Why HIWCF?
My mother’s family has lived in Hampshire for generations. I moved here with my own family over 20 years ago and wanted to contribute in some useful way to the community. In my professional life within a grant making foundation I had been impressed with the work and impact of community foundations in other parts of the country and knew how they worked. So HIWCF seemed like a good fit and I have been so pleased to be involved over more than 7 years.
HIWCF has 11 Trustees, what are the advantages of having a trustee board made up of people from all sorts of backgrounds with different skills and experience?
Whether it be at a board meeting, grants committee or grants panel; or through involvement with other aspects of HIWCF’s work, I see how varied backgrounds, skill sets and approaches to issues can be brought together to enhance decision making. It is so important to understand and value other peoples’ perspectives. Often, someone else’s insight or constructive challenge can shed fresh light and influence an outcome for the better.
What do you think is the most common misconception about poverty and disadvantage across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight?
That it doesn’t really exist relative to big inner cities or other parts of the country. In fact, in addition to parts of Southampton and Portsmouth poverty and disadvantage does exist within some of our pretty villages, countryside and charming market towns across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. We have a surprising number of pockets of significant deprivation as measured by official national statistics. As with most substantial towns or cities across the country some people live in multi-million-pound homes while others are not sure how to pay their rent, feed their families or try to keep reasonably warm. There are also patches of low educational attainment together with low social mobility that might shock some people.
Based on your experience of working with HIWCF and knowledge of the applications that come into us, what do you see as the biggest risks or barriers facing third sector organisations in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight?
Unfortunately, the current cost of living crisis, following the Covid pandemic has significantly increased demand for the support provided by such organisations. It has also, of course, increased their running costs but donations are also falling so funding is harder to find. This combination of factors is particularly grim and of course people who work in the sector, especially at local level, tend not to be very generously paid and so they may be struggling at an individual level too. Small scale organisations often rely heavily on volunteers who are becoming harder to recruit and indeed may not be able to afford to absorb costs, for example transport costs that they would previously have done. It is a worrying situation.
What do you think is unique about HIWCF’s approach to third sector organisations and non-profits across the region and how can HIWCF help the local community?
Community Foundations across the country exist specifically to support small, grass-roots, community organisations, usually with small grants but which can have a significant positive impact because they are delivered to local people who really need them. We aim to be as supportive as possible with our funding, bringing with it the combination of knowledge of geography, issues and local challenges.
As a Community Foundation we can also provide a service to those funders – be they wealthy private individuals, families, other trusts or corporates who recognise the problems around them and want to do something positive to support the community. We can help them to channel their funds effectively to the right place either to support their own particular focus or based on our own funding programmes. Sadly, every year we must reject a significant percentage of very worthy applications due to lack of funds and so fundraising is a high priority for us.
Has there been a moment during your time as a Trustee that has really stood out for you?
I find it quite hard to pinpoint one significant example, but I would say that the period during which I felt really proud to be involved with HIWCF was during the Covid pandemic period when community groups, both well-established and new, responded to the challenge with such warmth and generosity of spirit to help those who were struggling around them. The work of those groups and the HIWCF team, all pulling together and working really hard will be an abiding memory for me of that period.