In addition to working with individuals, families and trusts, we also partner with businesses in Surrey who want to support their local communities. In 2016, law firm Charles Russell Speechlys set up a Community Fund with the Community Foundation for Surrey to target their giving towards grass roots local projects which match the aims and passions of their business.
We asked Sally Ashford, Partner of the firm, about this corporate philanthropy.
How did you hear about the Community Foundation for Surrey?
We launched the Charles Russell Speechlys Community Fund in 2016. We have known about the Foundation for many years through our clients and contacts.
There were three main reasons for launching the Charles Russell Speechlys Community Fund; philanthropic giving, further engagement with the local community, and internal engagement.
What was your companies giving prior to meeting with the Foundation?
As a firm we have an annual ‘Charity of the Year’ initiative and this continues in our UK offices. The Charles Russell Speechlys Community Fund runs alongside this programme in our Guildford office.
What type of grants and interests do you have from allocating funding?
Our Community Fund supports projects which focus on employment, training and skills initiatives. It aims to help people gain confidence and raise aspirations to give them opportunities they otherwise would not have.
Can you name a few grants you have been especially proud to fund?
We have awarded 11 grants in the last two years to a wide range of inspiring projects. The ones that spring to mind are those where we have gone beyond writing a cheque to develop a relationship with the charity through volunteering or training.
For example, we awarded a grant to the The Therapy Garden for its ‘Stroke of Genius’ project, providing support for stroke survivors and their carers. A group from the office went down to meet the group and get involved, and others made cakes to take along!
One of our first grant recipients was Godalming-based Skillway. We have continued our relationship with the charity and they recently built our ‘Little Free Library’ – an initiative to encourage reading, where literature supplies are scarce.
What do you receive from working with us and how has it impacted on the business?
The Community Fund is now a key part of our Corporate Social Responsibility programme in the South East as we seek a lasting relationship with the charities and projects we fund through volunteering and ongoing support.
It has had a positive effect on our business, engaging with staff through the decision-making panels and volunteering as well as raising our profile locally. It really helps us to connect with the community around us.
What are the positives of having a fund with the Foundation?
We know that grant applications that come through the Foundation not only match our criteria but have been thoroughly assessed as both technically and financially viable, so we can be confident that our funds will be put to good use.
It has become a real partnership over the past two years as we have got to know Kate and her team and they have got to know us. It is important to us to be able to assess the impact that our funds have and so having regular feedback reports from the Foundation on the projects we have supported is really valuable.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
A corporate community fund is a fantastic way to give back to your community and engage your staff, I would strongly encourage it for any business in Surrey looking to develop and expand their charitable activity in this way.