27th June 2013
Essex Community Foundation (ECF) is celebrating a major milestone in its history, having reached the £20 million mark in the distribution of grants to voluntary and community organisations across Essex, Southend and Thurrock.
ECF, an independent charitable trust launched in 1996, has paid tribute to the people of Essex for proving that philanthropy is not a thing of the past, and for being determined to support and sustain their communities.
Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of ECF said: “We are truly delighted to have reached the remarkable milestone of £20 million given in grants. This achievement has been made possible by the outstanding generosity of the people of Essex and the hard work and dedication of ECF’s staff, volunteers, trustees and supporters.
“Individuals, families and businesses have, through ECF, discovered the feel-good factor involved in giving and have also established a substantial pool of resources to ensure long-lasting, ongoing support for the vital work of the voluntary sector in Essex.
“Over the past 17 years we have been able to expand our work and we now manage 93 named charitable funds, and we have been able to give support to more than 5,000 community-based voluntary organisations working for the benefit of local people across Essex.
“We have been able to put resources where they matter most and tackle issues ranging from rural isolation to encouraging young people to reach their full potential.
“It has been an immensely rewarding and sometimes challenging 17 years and we are moving ahead with even greater ambitions to meet needs where they arise in Essex.
“We want to help more donors achieve their aim of making their giving more effective and for local charities and community groups to have the support that ECF can give as a sound, well-established organisation with a thorough knowledge of the needs of the county.”
A great success story
The growth of Essex Community Foundation, since it was first established 17 years ago, is a great success story for the county.
It was the brainchild of Essex-based philanthropist Ian Marks CBE DL, now ECF’s President, whose family owned the sweet-making business, Trebor. Ian and his wife Angela had, through their own charitable foundation, become increasingly aware of the work of community foundations which had been active in America for some years. Ian believed that a community foundation in Essex would go some way towards meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in the county, whose problems were often hidden in a county perceived as part of the prosperous South East.
A community foundation could provide the means through which people who wanted to help could channel their donations effectively, while focusing attention on the problems facing the voluntary sector. It could also engender a stronger sense of community spirit.
The organisation started with the appointment of a chief executive working in an attic room with a laptop. Gradually trust and confidence was built up and people in the county realised this was a way of giving to the community which could really make a huge difference.
ECF is now the second largest Community Foundation in the country managing an endowed fund of around £25 million.
Remembering the early days, ECF President, Ian Marks, said “When we launched in 1996 most people had never heard of a community foundation, but their response was positive and this encouraged us to have big ambitions.
“In that first year we distributed £69,150 to 24 local voluntary organisations. To have now distributed £20 million pounds is such an achievement and is thanks to everyone who has supported or worked with the Foundation over the past 17 years. I am so proud, but there is still so much more to do!”
ECF receives hundreds of applications every year from voluntary and community organisations working in communities across Essex, Southend and Thurrock. Caroline Taylor, programmes director for ECF said: “Applications for funding come from a wide spectrum of voluntary and community groups. The average size of grant is £4,000, although some multi-year high value grants are also awarded.
“Every application has a thorough assessment and all grants are monitored so donors can give with complete confidence, knowing that their money will be used effectively, efficiently, and importantly, will make a difference to the lives of local people
“ECF supports local charities and this is very important for people in Essex who want to see that donations go to causes close to home.”
To find out more about ECF contact Jo Murphy on 01245 355947, or visit www.essexcommunityfoundation.org.uk
Offering a Unique Service
Families InFocus (Essex), a leading independent charity providing essential support for families who have children with disabilities and special needs, received their first grant from Essex Community Foundation (ECF) in 2001 and this funding enabled them to expand their unique services across the county.
The charity is based in Chelmsford, but covers the Essex area and currently gives vital help to a total of 800 different families each year.
The money received from ECF not only enabled the charity to go countywide, but has also given the organisation the recognition it needed to attract funding from other sources.
Rachel Ellis, chief executive of Families InFocus (Essex) said: “The grants we have received from Essex Community Foundation have meant that we are able to make our services available to families across Essex. Funding from ECF has also has been pivotal in our ability to bring in other funds. This has helped us develop our services, improve our infrastructure and give flexibility of access.
“It is great that we have had the support of ECF for a number of years from the various funds they manage, such as the Bartella Charitable Fund and through their relationship with the Henry Smith Charity which channels grant funding into Essex through ECF.
“We need £250,000 a year to keep going, so the money which has come to us through ECF makes a huge difference.
“If we were not here to provide services to the families who need our support, they would be devastated. We understand the distressing emotions, frustrations and challenges that parents and carers face when bringing up their special child.
“We can give caring, practical and confidential support, whilst empowering families to make the best use of available services.
“We have more than 4,000 families on our database and many of the families we help live in areas of deprivation. But we do also have some families who have comfortable circumstances, but find it difficult to cope with a child with disabilities or special needs. We are unique in what we do, as many other services are offered for a set time or a set age. We can help families with children aged from newborn to 19 and we know that what we do works, as it is all evidence-based.”
Services provided by Families InFocus (Essex) include a specialist one-stop advice service and helpline, one to one support including help with claiming disability allowances, independent support for parents on educational issues, a Saturday club for all the family, drop-ins, workshops, social and training events and opportunities for respite.
The charity, which has eight staff including five family support advisers who work across Essex and 30 volunteers, is facing challenging times as its funding from health, social services and education authorities is being affected by changes within those organisations. But its funding from ECF has put it on solid ground and there is determination to continue the work to help families in Essex.
“We are a vibrant charity, passionate about what we do,” said Rachel. “We will move with the times and be innovative, so that we can be here for the families who need us.”
For more information visit www.familiesinfocusessex.org.uk