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 Rebecca Kennelly MBE, HIWCF Chair
Can you tell us a bit about your background and what attracted you to HIWCF?
I was attracted to HIWCF because I’m passionate about our local community and voluntary sector -organisations that are working hard in their communities to meet the needs of local people. So often we hear about the big national organisations, which are amazing and have a really important place in our sector, but we don’t hear about those amazing smaller, community-based organisations and charities that really make up the fabric of our civic society. They really underpin and give support and help to the vulnerable and marginalised within our communities. And so, for me, HIWCF offers funding to those smaller community groups that often don’t have access to funding from higher wealth individuals, corporates, and the funding mechanisms that larger organisations can more easily access.
Secondly, I was attracted to HIWCF because it brings our lovely sector into the forefront of philanthropists’ minds – we have so many amazing corporates, high wealth individuals and partners across Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight that just want to do amazing things but don’t always know where to start. In the leadership role that HIWCF plays, it can advise them on how to invest their money and philanthropy in a way that can create tangible, lasting and sustainable benefits for our community.
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?
HIWCF is here to represent communities across Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight – and those are four massive communities – incredibly diverse, unique and varied. Therefore, it’s really important for us as a board of trustees that we have varied representation in relation to demographics, age, ethnicity, gender, culture and heritage and so on, and also a wealth of different types of skills and experiences. So, across our board of trustees, we have a diverse and wonderful group of individuals and I wake up every day feeling blessed at the wonderful talent that we have within our board.
Running a charity and Foundation is no small order, we have a wonderful staff team that support the Foundation and strong governance structure made up from our experience trustee. From a charity perspective, we need to make sure that we are legally compliant, for example, with employment law, Charity Commission law and regulation, safeguarding, health and safety – the list is endless – and because we are fundamentally an endowment-based charity that invests money to the benefit of civic society across our communities, we also need to make sure that we’ve got some brilliant investment and financial management skills. This is where the diversity of skills and experience is key on our board of trustee.
What do you think is the most common misconception about poverty and disadvantage across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight?
One of the most common misconceptions is that we have little poverty or disadvantage. I think there’s a big rhetoric across the UK that poverty is only in the North – but actually poverty is in every single community whether that’s rural, urban, North or South and we certainly have our share of poverty, marginalisation and disadvantage within Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight.
There is also a misconception that poverty and disadvantage can be easily solved. In our civic society we have so many layers of issues: from lack of social mobility, families and individuals not being able to afford to eat, to working parents and individuals unable to pay their housing and spiralling costs, to mental health and health inequalities that are systemic and are much more apparent in marginalised and deprived communities. The list is endless and with the cost-of-living spiralling in recent months and that’s even before we mention the impact of the pandemic, so we have so many different and complex issues in our society and there is no magic wand or ‘one’ thing that will solve these issues.
So often people think that poverty has an easy solution – people can just ‘work harder’ or they can claw themselves out of poverty, but it simply isn’t the case. There are often multiple interventions to support a family unit or an individual or a young person or at community level. What our charity sector offers is a safe and a loving space, where people have knowledge and experience and where individuals can come and ask for help at whatever level that help is needed – I find that beautiful, and something I’m incredibly proud of.
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?
I think the biggest risks and barriers are the continuous complexity of the external environment – we went from Brexit to a global pandemic, to a cost-of-living crisis and the sector is in places absolutely exhausted. Charitable organisations were on the forefront, supporting communities during the pandemic and then they came out of that and straight into a cost-of-living crisis where they have more pressures on their finances, salary bills, volunteer expenses – all those things inherently go up like they do for everyone – and yet need for these services has rocketed. And in the backdrop, we have individuals who have always given generously to our community-based organisations thinking carefully about whether they can continue to be a donor because their own costs are being stretched – so it’s an incredibly challenging time for our sector. Certainly, during my time working and volunteering in the sector, this is one of the most challenging periods we’ve ever had.
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?
One of the things that’s really unique about HIWCF is our leadership role within the sector and our knowledge of local communities and the need within them. We work incredibly hard alongside our partners within the sector, within local government, health, police and civic society to make sure that we really understand how our communities are faring so that we can tailor our funding in a way that is most impactful and so that the donations our philanthropists make to us are used in the most incredible and impactful ways.
Has there been a moment during your time as a trustee that has really stood out for you?
The moments that really stand out for me are when we go and visit our charitable and community organisations across Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight – the incredible generosity of spirit of our local volunteers and staff involved in communities really shines through. Their passion, dedication and enthusiasm to make sure that Hampshire and Isle of Wight are better places for so many vulnerable people is just incredible, and I continuously meet those that benefit from our charities and see the impact that those charities make on those individual lives and their communities. Whether it’s the ability to access food and some companionship because you haven’t got a home, or whether you’re elderly and you’re at a lunch club and the cooker that HIWCF enabled that club to purchase to continue to cook for 60 elderly people every week – these are all incredible moments to me. You really can’t underestimate the impact that our charities – and HIWCF – has on so many individual lives.
And finally, would you recommend becoming a trustee?
Yes, whole heartedly, it’s a privilege to be a trustee!