Kelly Tyler speaks to Rachael Grime, Chief Executive of Foundation Derbyshire, about the current challenges charities are facing and why she will not stop helping others.
Every single day, Rachael Grime witnesses ordinary people doing extraordinary things for their community.
From holding exercise classes for the elderly to running community cafes, Rachael and her team at Foundation Derbyshire – an organisation which hands out grants to groups and individuals for vital services – are blown away with pride at the dedication, commitment and generosity of Derbyshire people.
“I am very privileged to be in a position where I see a huge amount of volunteers and individuals giving their own time and effort on a daily basis to their community,” says Rachael.
“It is incredibly inspiring to see how much difference they make. These are ordinary people who do amazing things.”
"These are ordinary people who do amazing things"
Foundation Derbyshire – formerly Derbyshire Community Foundation – was established in 1996.
The endowment-based organisation offers a wide variety of funding programmes to voluntary and community groups across Derby and Derbyshire.
To date, the charity has handed out more than £14m in grants to over 5,000 community groups.
“The organisation started from very humble beginnings. It had about £20,000 in the endowment initially but, thanks to the hard work of local companies and individuals, in 2000 it reached the £1m mark.
“A local donor offered a million pound match challenge which really turned the fortunes of the charity around. Over a two-year period, all hands were on deck to raise a further million pounds and, in return for that, the donor contributed £1m. This really gave the organisation critical mass.”
Rachael Grime (right), Chief Executive of Foundation Derbyshire
It was just a few years after this that Rachael, who had been working in London’s banking sector, joined the organisation as Chief Executive.
“I am Derbyshire born and bred and, after many years in London, I had decided that I wanted to move back home and do something completely different.
“When the opportunity came up to work for the Foundation, I read up on it and loved the sound of the role so much that I applied. I was very fortunate to get the job, which was 10 years ago now.”
The charity now has around £6.7m in its endowment fund, with around 50 individual funds within this.
“We are a conduit, a vehicle, for people that want to give locally,” said Rachael. “We help them reach groups and charities in the county that they may not necessarily know about.
“There is a huge amount of goodwill out there and by utilising the resources we have, a lot can be achieved."
“A huge amount of voluntary work in the county is actually done by very small grassroots organisations so it can be quite difficult for “the man on the street” who wants to give to charity to find out where they are, who they are and what they are doing.
“We have some families that want to establish a fund in their family’s name – very often that’s a means of educating younger generations about the importance of philanthropy. We get some individuals that have sold a business or there may have been a death in a family and they want to set up a memorial fund. We have legacies – people leave money in their wills – and then we have groups who do fundraising and want the money they raise to be kept locally so they give it to us to deal with.
“When people donate money to us, that money isn’t spent it is invested and it is the income that that investment generates every year that we use to fund our grantmaking – basically, every quarter we calculate 1% of the endowment fund value and give that out in grants.”
Foundation Derbyshire receives between 350-500 grant applications each year. The majority of grants are around the £1,000 mark.
Last year, the charity handed out around £340,000, only £70,000 of which went to groups in grants of more than £7,000.
“There is always demand for funding so it is a tough job,” said Rachael.
“We are a small organisation with only five part-time staff members so, in addition to our own staff, we have a panel of local volunteers who come and sit on our grant-making panels to make the funding decisions, along with many of our donors who like to be involved in deciding how their money is spent.
“With increasing demands on our resources, sometimes we have to part-fund and prioritise.
“We have to be mindful of the difficult decisions our panel has to make and everyone is aware of the austerity measures taking place and the effects funding cuts are having on charities and groups.
A clothing bank in Derby: one of the projects supported by Foundation Derbyshire
“Fortunately, we are in a privileged position that because of our endowment we are independent so we are not impacted directly but a lot of people are now turning to us for support to fill in the gaps where other funders would have stepped in.
“The cuts in funding are a reality but if we are here as a facility, are aware of what can be done and we can encourage and inspire people to make those links with each other, then that is hopefully a creative way around the situation.”
Due to the nature of her job, Rachael meet hundreds of inspiring volunteers and, while she said it was difficult to pinpoint any favourites, she said she had been touched by an application for a clothing project, based in Derby city.
“A lady came to us because she had become aware of what she described as a ‘Dickensian situation’ with children in Derby not having clothes to go to school in or to go on holiday with.
“She, very kindly, set up a charity in her own garage where people could bring clothes that they didn’t need.
“After a short time, the project had outgrown the space in the lady’s house and they were desperate for a central location to deliver the service.
“She approached Foundation Derbyshire for support so we provided her with rent for a small unit to store the clothes and get them out to people. This is a lovely example of one person making a huge difference.”
Foundation Derbyshire is now working hard to reach £10m in its endowment fund.
Rachael added: “Hopefully by inspiring corporates, individuals and groups within the county to invest in the Foundation we will see more people getting involved, which in turn will mean more help for people in need.
“There is a huge amount of goodwill out there and by utilising the resources we have, a lot can be achieved.”
Writer: Kelly Tyler
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