It is hard to believe that it is two years since we all received such a seismic shock to our lives; for me, the 6 months since joining the Community Foundation in July 2021 have simply flown by. Many of us have adapted well to the strange new world, even enjoying having perhaps a little more time in our days if we are no longer commuting to work. We are gradually, albeit in a limited way during the current Omicron situation, beginning to enjoy the things we used to, like trips to the theatre, going out to dinner and visiting relatives. But of course, for those of us living with hardship and challenges, the effects of the pandemic are still reverberating, and life has become exponentially more difficult.
Coronavirus has changed the way we all understand the places that mean the most to us – working at home has meant that we have, perhaps for the first time, spent time in our neighbourhoods. We’ve used local shops, walked local streets (or in my case local hills), met neighbours and been confronted with some of the issues that face our communities, but which were previously invisible to us.
I wanted to get involved in CFS because, in 2008 after viewing Surrey primarily through the window of a London commuter train, I took on the role of leading a youth charity in the county and had my eyes opened to just how difficult life was for many children and young people in our county. I was outraged at the huge differences in life opportunities in our county. But I also got to meet many other charities and community organisations working tirelessly to reach those most disadvantaged in Surrey, so I also felt incredibly optimistic that we have the tools to make a real difference and ensure no one, whether young or old, is left behind in our area.
Using their deep knowledge of their local communities, working with empathy and kindness, community organisations have really stepped up during the pandemic. They have provided help to parts of the county that others simply couldn’t reach. And in our turn, CFS staff and volunteers have also stepped up to rapidly and sympathetically, provide funding where it is most needed and can have most impact; trusting our community partners to advise us of the need. The single phrase that really struck me in my first month here was ‘We Care’ – our donors, our volunteers and our staff are all working so hard to help this wonderful, vibrant group of charities and community organisations that keep our county from falling to its knees.
The challenges we have faced these last two years have also necessitated working differently in many ways – and it is so important that we do not lose the best of that, nor our commitment to continue, grow, develop and adapt based on what we have learnt.
- We have worked in partnership with the community and voluntary sector, listening to how we can best help them and where the most need is – we will continue to listen, learn and adapt our processes to be more open and accessible to all.
- We have reviewed and refined our grants processes – we will continue to strive to make our funding more accessible.
- We have piloted a programme of Funder Plus volunteers, – we have plans to grow the scheme to provide skilled volunteers to support grassroots charities.
- We have taken the lead to bring funders together around common areas of need, working in partnership with others in the county to ensure that we are focussing all our efforts on where they are most needed – we will continue to convene, challenge and work in partnership on the big issues.
- We are growing ‘funding movements’ around young people’s mental health and around environment and sustainability because such issues are too critical for us to continue to work in isolation
- We quickly came together to raise and distribute vital emergency funding at the most critical time, and now, with a focus to provide grants to organisations battling the ongoing and new challenges arising as a result of the pandemic, positioning ourselves as a place-based funder in Surrey for the long-term. Our donors trust us to help them to give well in our county because we are committed to understanding not just how we can help right now, but also to shining a light on the most difficult and long-term problems faced by our communities and encouraging everyone to get involved in solving them.
- We have developed new ways for new donors to engage with us – we continue to support our donors on a donor journey that lasts decades, learning together about how best to help our community.
- We are growing our local area fund network to ensure we reach all the hidden areas of the county with our support
- We are developing exciting new corporate partnerships such as our recent Shepperton Community Fund which enable us to work in partnership with our business community
From the incredible response we had to our Coronavirus Response Fund, to this winter’s campaign to donate to support those in poverty, we know that our supporters care just as much as we do about improving the quality of life for everyone in Surrey, to ensure everyone has hope. I remain optimistic as we look forward this 2022, and as we strive to continue and improve on the great foundations we have already built. Working together there is so much we can achieve – thank you to everyone who is part of our very special Community Foundation for Surrey community.
If you are interested in learning more, or would like to support, please contact us on 01483 478092.