A helping hand

PUBLISHED: 15:25 27 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:46 20 February 2013

King George Football Club, Welwyn Garden City £4,690 to help set up a club for young people in Welwyn Garden City

King George Football Club, Welwyn Garden City £4,690 to help set up a club for young people in Welwyn Garden City

David Fitzpatrick, Chief Executive of Hertfordshire Community Foundation explains why the foundation goes out of its way to help small charities that would otherwise go unnoticed...

WHAT matters more? That a major national charity is supported by your giving? Or that local charities are encouraged? It would be good of course that both were but, in the main, it is an either/or situation and, mostly, the nationals win out. That is where Hertfordshire Community Foundation comes in. They make giving locally, easy. They also try to ensure that we all appreciate how vital local support is. It is an interesting challenge.

They say that we are all part of the Big Society now. That we will all be helping each other, volunteering, giving money to good causes, and all will be sweetness and light.

Sadly the statistics do not bear that out. Firstly, as a percentage of their income, people who are poorer give more than people who are richer. The figures show that the amounts are 4% and just under 1% of income, respectively. And they give more of their time, too. But the malaise is a little deeper than that.

Recent research shows that the top charities people support include the Donkey Sanctuary, Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Cats Protection League and a range of cancer and hospice charities. But who wants to help single, young mums work out a way of sharing childcare so that they can get to work? Who wants to work with people coming through the justice system so that they do not reoffend? Who wants to ensure that addicted people can detox and lead normal lives again? Thank goodness for Hertfordshire Community Foundation, because they aim to reach the parts other funders rarely reach.

This Hatfield-based charity is now the largest non statutory grant maker in the county. They use the money they raise to tackle need and deprivation, right across Hertfordshire. I can hear the comments as this is being read: surely Hertfordshire does not have any real needs and deprivation? You could not be more wrong.

The Foundations seminal research report, the Hidden Need, took the governments statistics on deprivation but, instead of just the figures that get averaged out at the county level, they went deeper than that, to see what happens at the local level. We all know of a really nice area that has, say, a sink estate alongside it. Or a new development that still has a few houses that have not been developed. Hertfordshire Community Foundation was able to capture the details of these sort of areas and has shown that this county has places in the worst 10% in the country. These are made worse as a result not just of real poverty, which we have, but of relative poverty, where Johnny goes to school in duff trainers but sees the others getting all they ask for. Not that this is a good thing of course but it makes the differences in income much more stark.

There is a danger that people who do want to give might go for what they perceive as the easy option and so support the usual names they have heard of hence the Donkey Sanctuary and so forth. But support directed through Hertfordshire Community Foundation does get to that real, local, need. A question that sometimes gets asked: but what of all the costs involved? HCF took that question on the chin: they commissioned the prestigious New Economics Foundation to report on the Foundations social return on investment. A painful process later, NEF showed that 1 invested in the local community through Hertfordshire Community Foundation, produced a return to that community of between 5.20 and 9.60, astonishing value for money. So, not only has the Foundation shown that the need is there, but they have shown that donating through them can make a real difference. One of their slogans is putting people who care, in touch with causes that matter. We can say little more than keep up the good work.

Find out more

If you want to find out more about the Foundations activity, full details are on their website www.hertscf.org.uk or call 01707 251351.

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