NEWS - section 1

Not going over the top - this recreation of a First World War trench in a garden setting aptly caught the spirit of what Scottish War Blinded is all about and commemorated the lives of the soldiers at the time; hence it quite rightly won a show garden award at Gardening Scotland.

Charity wins First World War garden award

Scottish War Blinded has won an award for a garden constructed by visually impaired veterans themed around World War One. The prestigious Silver Gilt Award for show gardens at Gardening Scotland was the result of the work of veterans supported by the charity who were inspired to create the World War One Commemorative Garden by a visit to Ypres last year.

During the visit, which was organised by Scottish War Blinded to mark the charity’s centenary in 2015, the  veterans were moved by the sight of now peaceful farmland which was once the scene of terrible devastation during World War One’s battles in the trenches. Upon their return from the battlefields of Ypres, the charity began to consider ideas to evoke this past horror - and the idea to create a garden evoking the experience of Scottish soldiers in World War One was formed.

Ian White Associates Landscape Architects developed the veterans’ idea into the garden design. The garden was developed in partnership with Jon Lessels landscaping, Binny Plants, Greenspace landscapes and 3 Rifles Battalion - who stepped in to donate sandbags to recreate the trench.

The focal point of the garden conjures up images of a 1915 trench warfare scene. Dense, dark colours and smoke feature to represent the tension, fear and anxiety felt by Allied soldiers on the Western Front during a poisonous gas attack. The wooden trench featured was crafted by visually impaired veterans at the Scottish War Blinded Linburn Centre in West Lothian.

The garden’s transition from dark to light colours as well as sparse ground and destroyed woodland, to an abundance of foliage and colour, represents the journey blinded soldiers took away from the horrors of the Western Front to a safe haven under the eventual care of Scottish War Blinded.

The charity was founded in 1915 as a result of soldiers returning blinded from mustard gas attacks. Ceramic poppies feature as a mark of respect to the fallen soldiers of World War One. The poppies were also crafted in the art workshop of the Linburn Centre, by visually impaired veterans, who despite their loss of vision have produced beautiful finished pieces.

Rebecca Barr, head of operations and development at Scottish War Blinded, says: "Over the last century the charity has changed and today we support veterans who lost their sight after service due to old age and eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration, as well as those who lost their sight in service."

Launch of governance awards by the Clothworkers' Company - winners and runners-up from charities of all sizes.

Awards for good charity governance launched

City livery company the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers' newly launched Charity Governance Awards kicked off with the announcement of the winners of the 2016 awards by BBC broadcaster Edward Stourton at an event in the Clothworkers Hall, London. Six charities will share in the £30,000 prize pot, each winning a £5,000 unrestricted grant. The winning charities represent a diverse range of activities including youth work, heritage conservation, mental health support, palliative care and community improvement.

The way the categories were devised by the Clothworkers' Company and its partners - think tank and consultancy NPC (New Philanthropy Capital), volunteer matching charity Reach and specialist third sector recruitment agency Prospectus - in this initiative to both encourage and reward good charity guidance reflected an awareness both of how governance has to operate in challenging circumstances and that charities of all sizes are affected by the requirement for good governance.

The categories and winners were: board diversity and inclusivity - young people's charity Leap Confronting Conflict; improving impact - charities with 3 paid staff or fewer - community charity Robert Thompson Charities; improving impact - charities with 4-25 paid staff - disadvantaged young people charity Sport 4 Life UK; improving impact - charities with 26 plus paid staff - St Cuthbert's Hospice; embracing opportunity and harnessing risk - community development charity Healthy n Happy Community Development Trust.

Perhaps the most demanding category of all was managing turnaround, the winner being mental illness support and encouragement charity Mosaic Clubhouse.

Michael Jarvis, (First Warden of the Clothworkers', i.e. no 2) who presented the awards, said: “This inaugural year has demonstrated that sound governance can work in a variety of shapes or forms. But what the winners all have in common is that they are delivering the best possible impact on those for whom they seek to make a real difference.

“To continue our journey towards better governance, we will be running the Charity Governance Awards again in 2017. We would be delighted to hear from charities across the board, big and small, who are demonstrating great governance, when we open for entries this October.”

The 14-strong judging panel included Dawn Austwick (chief executive, Big Lottery Fund), Stephen Greene (CEO and co-founder, RockCorps), Sara Llewellin (chief executive, Barrow Cadbury Trust), Dan Corry (chief executive, New Philanthropy Capital) and Janet Thorne (CEO, Reach).

Charity fraud undermines full value of donations

The annual cost of fraud in the UK charity sector could be as high as £1.86 billion per year, according to the Annual Fraud Indicator 2016 (which covers all sectors of the UK economy). It is overseen by the UK Fraud Costs Measurement Committee, supported by accountancy firm PKF Littlejohn and information services company Experian, and is based on research by University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Counter Fraud Studies.

The total cost of fraud across all sectors of UK Plc is £193 billion per year, with £144 billion of this affecting the private sector, £37.5 billion affecting the public sector, £10 billion affecting individuals and £1.86 billion affecting the charity sector.

Jim Gee, chair of the UK Fraud Cost Measurement Committee and head of forensic and counter fraud services at PKF Littlejohn, says: “Fraud has a pernicious social and economic impact on the UK. In the charity sector, charities are deprived of the full value of the donations which we make, are less able to fulfil their charitable purposes and are more vulnerable to reputational damage.

"In recent years research shows that charities are becoming more resilient to fraud and the Charity Commission is stepping up its work in this area. However, there is much more to be done.

"Fraud is best seen as similar to a clinical virus – something which continually mutates and changes as fraudsters seek the greatest benefits for the least risks. The best way to reduce its extent and cost is to make sure charities are fraud resilient and able to protect themselves against a continually evolving threat.”

Company ends charity partnership on high note

EDF Energy is celebrating raising almost £1 million for Marie Curie as its three year partnership with the terminal illness care and support charity comes to an end. Employees have undertaken hundreds of activities, from hosting tea parties and bake sales across its 30 sites, to climbing Kilimanjaro and cycling the length of Great Britain. In addition, the company’s Business Energy Services team donated a £40,000 service to help identify and implement energy efficiency improvements at Marie Curie’s nine hospices.

After exceeding the initial fundraising target of £300,000 in just over a year, staff at EDF Energy went on to raise more than £645,000 for the charity. The company boosted the total raised by employees with £100,000 each year of the partnership taking the final amount to more than £945,000.

The partnership extended beyond fundraising, with EDF Energy’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) network raising awareness of the charity to help more people from ethnic minority communities better understand the services that Marie Curie provides.

Janet Hogben, chief people officer at EDF Energy, says: “This has been the most successful charity partnership that EDF Energy has been involved with. The charity carries out vital work providing end of life care to patients and we’re proud to have supported them.”

The charity partnership finished at the end of April and employees across EDF Energy will be able to vote for a new charity partner later this year. Until then, the company will be supporting the British Paralympic Association’s campaign to Supercharge ParalympicsGB, raising funds to make sure that British athletes have the best possible support to compete at Rio 2016 and beyond.

Employers more likely to hire volunteers

Over half of UK bosses (54%) would be more likely to employ someone who cited voluntary work on their CV over someone who didn't, according to a survey by the British Heart Foundation. British employers estimate that skills picked up by their employees through volunteering contributes an extra value of over £35,000 each year to their business, and rate volunteers as being more caring (58%), reliable (49%) and driven (46%).

In fact, over a third (42%) of employers said seeing voluntary work on a CV would make them more likely to want to interview the applicant, which rated higher than basic IT skills (39%) or a degree (34%).

A separate survey from the British Heart Foundations shows that voluntary work doesn’t just benefit employers, with almost a quarter of Brits (23%) surveyed admitting they find an interest in volunteering an attractive quality in others.

Of the people surveyed who have never volunteered, almost half (45%) thought volunteering would help them make new friends. Over a third (35%) said it could make their life more satisfying, and three in ten people (30%) recognised the potential to gain new skills or qualifications.

The benefits were confirmed by volunteers themselves who rated the top three best things about volunteering as making new friends (50%), having a more satisfying life (49%) and gaining new skills (44%).

The BHF has over 20,000 volunteers in its 750 shops across the UK running, which raise around £30 million a year.

Charity's volunteers work 5.5m hours a year

Suicide prevention charity Samaritans has calculated that its volunteers give 5.5 million hours of their time every year. Every 6 seconds someone contacts Samaritans. Across the UK and Republic of Ireland, more than 20,000 volunteers respond to calls, emails and texts, as well as supporting people in workplaces, schools, communities and prisons.

They also work with the NHS, police and emergency services, as well as fundraising for and running its 201 local bases, known as branches, some of which include shops.  The charity estimates that paid employees would be earning the equivalent of £72m a year.

Samaritans volunteers based at its 201 branches work in a variety of roles. Listening volunteers respond to calls, emails, letters and texts, as well as talking to people who call into a branch for support in person. Weekly shifts are usually 3 or 4 hours long, with most volunteers doing a number of night shifts across the year. 

According to NCVO, more than 21m people volunteer in the UK at least once a year. Volunteering contributes an estimated £23.9bn to the UK economy, equivalent to more than 1.5% of GDP.

Lack of awareness is hitting smaller charities

Competition from large well funded charities is severely hampering the fundraising efforts of local charities across the UK, according to a report from TSB. The report found that over 50% of small charities believe better known larger charities – with significant marketing budgets and expertise – presented a challenge to their fundraising efforts. Much of this is due to low awareness of their work in local communities.

The result is that more than a third (38%) of Brits can’t name one local charity and only one in 10 (13%) can name more than one. This is despite small charities representing 97% of Britain’s charity sector and the majority operating in local communities. TSB is providing fundraising and support to nearly 500 local causes and is calling on other firms to work in partnership to safeguard the future of small, local charities.

As well as lack of awareness, the report highlights severe skills shortages and funding as the major challenges hitting service delivery for small charities. Almost two thirds (61%) of charities say that the skills gap in their organisation means an increasing workload for existing staff and volunteers.

43% of charities say they are increasingly unable to take on new work – precisely at a time when many charities are experiencing a growth in demand for their services. Although the vast majority of charities are small, only 20% of the sector’s total income goes to them, with the remaining 80% going to just the 3% of charities which turn over above £1m per year.

Despite the challenges, the TSB report reveals that there are simple things that anyone can do to help this vital sector in their local community, from raising awareness to developing more local partnerships. There is already an active base of supporters, with 10% of people already helping their local community by fundraising for local causes, and growing potential for more. 50% of people polled said they would donate money to their local charity if they knew about them.

Bola Gibson, head of community engagement at TSB, says: “Unlike large organisations, which naturally have more resources at their disposal, small, local charities really struggle to get their voice heard. This lack of awareness is greatly hampering their funding and operations. At TSB our sole purpose is to help hard working local people and the communities to which they belong. That’s why every single one of our branches is free to partner with a local cause that matters to them, their customers and their communities.  

“What our Local Charity Partnerships have proved is that partnerships between well known businesses and local causes can have a positive effect, not just by increasing fundraising, but also increasing local awareness.”

Graham Robinson, from the North Nottinghamshire Community First Responders, a group of 30 volunteers who assist the ambulance service, and a charity partner of TSB, observes:  “Large companies tend to donate to well known household charity names, so we find it hard to get them to support us. It comes down to awareness, with bigger companies wanting to associate with national charities which get wider visibility.

“As a result we tend to seek help from small businesses, like local shops, which make an important contribution but obviously have less financial clout.

“Another challenge we face is related to skills. There are many back end jobs involved in an operation like ours, particularly accounting and secretarial work, which we struggle to fill. They are vital to our operations and an inability to resource them adequately puts pressure on our front line operations.”

Small charities should genuinely collaborate with each other

Research from the Foundation for Social Improvement shows that one in ten small UK charities see closure as likely, yet less than 10% are truly collaborating with other charities to pool resources and deliver services. Declining funds (26%) combined with a rise in workload (32%) means small charities lack the fundamental resources to stay open.

Ironically the research shows that 66% of respondents claim to collaborate with other small charities, but the reality is that 90% of these are only referring to purely networking and not a meaningful partnership, such as a merger (3%) or a joint venture (6%).

The FSI research shows that through collaboration, small charities can deliver more services whilst spending less time delivering them. 89% of those which report to be in a strategic alliance spend less time or an equal amount of time working to deliver the proportion of services covered.

The key to unlocking the solutions to the social problems of today may depend on better collaboration, says the FSI, which points to one organisation already reaping the benefits of collaboration, LGBT Consortium. This is a 275 strong national membership organisation that uses collaboration to pool resources and enhance the development and support of LGBT groups, projects and organisations.

Set up in 1998, the consortium grew up out of its own community by identifying a need to provide an alternative to more generic membership organisations and provide a more specialist service for its members.

Paul Roberts, CEO of LGBT Consortium, explains: “Just this week, one of our larger members closed - the second so far this year - emphasising that more than ever, we need to collaborate to support each other.

"By sharing resources and combining efforts when applying for funding, we are able to pool best practice and coordinate shared learning. Small charities are expected to know a lot of things on a lot of topics, but we can’t be experts in everything. Developing partnerships to learn more about individual issues enables us to better talk on behalf of our members."

Pauline Broomhead, CEO of the FSI, says: “The results from the research indicate, quite strongly, that small charities don’t collaborate enough in any meaningful way. This is a real loss for the sector as there is no doubt that small charities are extremely good at coming up with solutions to some of the most serious social problems facing the world today.

"In isolation, they may be too small to take a great idea or a great solution to a wider beneficiary audience but partnering up with another organisations, like LGBT Consortium, can set the wheels in motion.

"If we don’t collaborate, genuinely start to share our knowledge and learning with each other, we will miss out on a vital opportunity, and waste time on superficial partnerships that don’t add any real and lasting value to the support and services we deliver."

Charity transforms operations for same money

Sexual abuse and rape prevention charity Safeline has been able to transform the way its staff work by enabling them to work remotely. Safeline provides face to face and online counselling services, prevention projects and a national helpline offering support and advice. It also helps survivors to report abuse to the police, and trains professionals to protect and support people affected by sexual abuse and rape.

Safeline previously ran its critical operation with only two phone lines, mismatched software packages and an aging infrastructure. Staff were severely restricted by out of date technology and were unable to work remotely. Overcrowding in its small office was a constant issue and storing sensitive data on legacy IT systems was difficult and time intensive.

The charity purchased managed desktop services and cloud based telephony services from SRD Technology UK and NaviSite Europe to enable it, within the same budget, to help 80% more survivors. The system resulting from all the services has been totally reliable with zero downtime, enabling the charity to provide uninterrupted support to survivors. The charity has grown its team from 5 to 19 people without needing more office space, and is able to equip them with IT tools as needed.

Neil Henderson, CEO of Safeline, says: “The lack of available phone lines meant that there were times when survivors would call and were unable to speak to a counsellor. It takes an enormous amount of courage for a survivor to lift that phone in the first place, and so many would never call back and the opportunity to access the support they desperately needed was lost, possibly forever.

"The use of the desktop as a service solution Stratus HDS in particular has transformed how the Safeline team is able to work and equipped us to provide a reliable service to clients who desperately need life changing support.”

The charity was able to avoid a big upfront payment by using a manageable OPEX payment model. Safeline has subsequently secured new funding in the form of a new national helpline for male survivors of sexual abuse.

Lifeboat stations connected by new IT service

The RNLI is achieving full connectivity with all its 237 lifeboat stations with a new fully managed service the charity from KCOM which has upgraded and now supplies its wide area network (WAN). This is a key step in supporting ongoing plans to make the charity's work more accessible to volunteers, colleagues and supporters.

Steve North, IT project manager at the RNLI, says: “Our aim is to give our station’s staff and volunteers the best service possible. Lifeboat crews and volunteers input the details of lifeboat launches and then upload video footage from their rescues, which can be used for media, training and fundraising. A faster connection helps us to spread the word about the lifesaving work we are doing much more quickly.

"The RNLI is dedicated to saving lives at sea, and investing in better technology at our lifeboat stations around the coast will help to do this.”

The project is already underway with two large bandwidth connections with resilient failover into the Poole HQ and a rollout of over 200 private FTTC and DSL connections happening across the UK, in some of the most remote locations around the British coast.

KCOM has worked with the RNLI to map out the most suitable, cost effective connectivity for each site based on site needs, location and support requirements, and has also managed and monitored hardware installation including managed switches and wireless devices.

New airline commits to four charities

POP, the new low cost UK to India airline, is to focus its philanthropic giving in its first year on four charities, three UK based and the fourth in India. Established on a "caring capitalism" business model, POP (an acronym for People Over Profit) will donate a minimum of 51% of its profits to fund social projects in both the UK and India.

The three UK charities are: Dreams Come True, which brings joy to children and young people with serious and life-limiting conditions; SkillForce, which draws on the skills of predominantly ex-services personnel and works with schools to transform young people's lives; Railway Children, which protects children in India who live on railway platforms and surrounding streets.

(Nino) Navdip Singh Judge, chairman and principal of POP, says: "Research indicates that customers think companies have a duty to support the local communities in which they do business - we totally agree, which is why we will support charities local to where we fly. We want to have strong relationships with the charities we partner and will meet with them regularly to decide which projects to support as we want to create sustainable and transformative change whenever and wherever possible.”

In addition to the donations made by POP, supporters in POP’s recently launched crowdfunding campaign will also be able to help directly any one of its four charities. When they purchase a POP Gold Pass for £500, POP will donate £10 to their selected cause.

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