Essex Community Foundation

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ECF celebrates 20 years of local giving

10th June 2016

Supporters of Essex Community Foundation (ECF) have been urged to spread the word about the organisation, while spreading scones with jam and cream.

Goody bags containing everything needed to hold a cream tea for two were given to 120 specially-invited guests at a special event held at Pontlands Park in Chelmsford.  The reception celebrated the 20th anniversary of ECF, a leading independent charitable trust dedicated to improving the quality of life of people in Essex.

The guests were encouraged by ECF’s chairman Jonathan Minter, to seize the opportunity to meet up with a friend, enjoy the cream tea and tell them about ECF’s work.  Set up in 1996, the Foundation distributes grants to thousands of local voluntary and community groups from the 120 funds it manages on behalf of families, individuals, companies and statutory organisations.

The 20th anniversary event was held at Pontlands Park courtesy of the Bartella family who put on a wonderful spread in the hotel’s splendid marquee. The family are long-term supporters of ECF and have a fund in their name with the Foundation to support local charities.

Jonanthan Minter said: “Talking to people is an important part of our work and many conversations about ECF have taken place over a cup of tea and a piece of cake.  That’s why we wanted to have a tea party to celebrate our 20th anniversary and why, thanks the support of Wilkin & Sons and Handelsbanken, we have equipped our guests with everything need to enjoy afternoon tea whilst spreading the word about Essex Community Foundation with someone who doesn’t know about us. 

“As well as celebrating our achievements over the past two decades ECF is looking to the future, with plans to make an even greater impact in the county.

“To date we have an endowment fund of more than £30 million and we are delighted that so far we have been able to award 6,000 grants totalling nearly £27 million to local voluntary organisations and individuals.

“We have learned so much through our work over two decades and we are determined to go from strength to strength. We have a great understanding of the needs of our communities through our relationship with the voluntary sector and the applications we receive, through our own Vital Signs research report and through the panels of local people who keep us informed of the issues that matter in the county.   We also have important strategic partnerships with Essex County Council, public agencies, Essex Police and Essex County Fire & Rescue Service.

“This knowledge and expertise is enabling us to work with families, individuals and local companies to help them support local charities and voluntary organisations in the most effective way.
“ECF has also been able to breathe new life into existing charitable trusts by bringing them under our management, ensuring that people today can benefit from trusts established a century ago, such as those set up by the Courtauld family.

“We also work in partnership with national foundations and central government to direct funding into local communities. ECF has distributed small grants to Essex charities on behalf of Comic Relief since 2009 and has also worked with the Henry Smith Charity, distributing their large grants in Essex since 2008.

“ECF has come a long way since it was first established and we in Essex will be forever grateful and thankful to our founders, Ian and Angela Marks, for having the vision and determination to create an organisation which continues to make such a difference to the lives of so many people of Essex.”
Caroline Taylor, chief executive of ECF said: “Our 20th anniversary is a significant milestone and, as well as celebrating the success story of the past two decades, we are also setting our sights on playing an even greater role in making life better for local people in our county.

“We will be building on our strengths and, looking forward, our approach will be strategic. We will continue to identify areas of need using our expertise and insight.

“Through some of our work we will be able to make an immediate difference and, through other ways of working, including partnerships with other organisations, we can facilitate long-term change in communities.

“As one of the UK’s leading accredited community foundations we have unique expertise and local knowledge to help individuals, families, companies and public agencies to channel their giving to where it is needed most and support the local causes and charities they care about.”

ECF Founders, Ian and Angela Marks, talk about why the felt Essex needed a Community Foundation - click here

To view photos of the tea party click here.

How ECF started

The seeds of ECF's success were first sown by Ian and Angela Marks, who live in Ingatestone.

Ian was chairman of Trebor, originally a family-owned Colchester confectionery group. When Trebor was sold to Cadbury-Schweppes Ian and Angela were determined that they should use much of the money the company’s sale had brought them to help those in need.

Ian’s thoughts turned first of all to causes in Africa, but Angela suggested that they should concentrate on the needs of their home county.

Inspired by the success of community foundations in America and the first such organisations in this country, Ian and Angela set their sights on establishing a foundation for his Essex.

After a feasibility study to gauge support for such a move, a steering group of local people gave the go-ahead for Essex Community Foundation to be established in April 1996.

Ian and ECF's first chief executive, Laura Warren, based in a small office in Chelmsford, set about winning hearts and minds to make the vision of a strong and sustainable community foundation for Essex become a reality.

“We went out and about in the county trying to interest people of influence in the concept, we held meetings and talked to a lot of people to find out how they visualised the future of Essex,” said Ian.

Angela said: “People perceive Essex as an affluent area, but it has pockets of deprivation and this is what we wanted to tackle.”

As support grew for a community foundation for Essex money began to come in and the first grants were made.

“We were able to show that we were not all talk, we were taking action,” said Ian.

Their efforts and the support given by the people of Essex changed the landscape of local philanthropic giving forever and established a vital ongoing resource to support the work of voluntary organisations in the county.

ECF set a high standard from the start to ensure that grants given are handled well and used in the most effective way.

Today Ian and Angela say that they are proud of what has been achieved and are humbled by the amount of support shown by so many people, including ECF’s donors, staff, trustees and volunteers.

“The foundation has done better than we ever dared to expect and has expanded beautifully” said Ian. “Obviously, the needs are there and the fact that people have come forward to meet those needs is superb.

“It is great that we have provided the mechanism for that to happen. By having endowed money we have the resources and the flexibility to meet new needs as they arise in the future.

“I think this aspect is vital and I am full of hope and confidence that  the foundation will go forward to be bigger and stronger, helping more and more people in need.”

To view the photos from the Tea Party themed celebration event click here.