THE BLOG

Finding Common Ground: How Big Banks and Small Charities Can Work Together

16/11/2015 17:10 GMT | Updated 12/11/2016 10:12 GMT

You may think a leading bank with an extensive global presence and a shelter for homeless and vulnerable people in South London make an unlikely partnership. But with one in ten small charities balancing the threat of closure with a significant demand for their services, groups like the Drive Forward Foundation, who build positive futures for care leavers, need our help. (Ref: www.thefsi.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Shifting-Sands-Trends-2015).

The valuable impact of grassroots community initiatives is clear; many operate on a shoestring and are able to deliver vital support to their local communities. Largely volunteer run, they are able to keep their administration costs low responding to local needs quickly. Their size means they can be flexible and effectively build relationships with the vulnerable people they support.

At Deutsche Bank this presents us with an ongoing challenge: we know that small charities are doing important work and reaching the communities we want to help. How can we develop meaningful partnerships between organisations that are so fundamentally different to our own? We can't claim to have found the solution but we have come up with a few practical tips that have helped us to create high-impact partnerships that we can be proud of:

1) Wrap it up: whilst we partner with many varied charitable organisations, all of our partnerships are based on a shared social mission. Sporteducate, our flagship education programme in the UK, does just this. Sporteducate aims to evidence the case for sport-for-development, supporting education and employability programmes within local sports and youth clubs and measuring the effect of their work. The programme has already demonstrated the positive impact sports and youth clubs can have on communication skills, aspirations and determination. Many of these clubs are very small and run by everyday heroes; both committed volunteers and professional youth workers. By supporting these clubs as part of a broader strategic programme, we are able to have an impact on young people as well as the sport-for-development industry as a whole.

2) Create an impact: the StreetSmart campaign is well-known amongst the restaurant and hotel industry. With our support the campaign has raised £5m for the homeless through millions of individual £1 donations from diners and hotel guests since we partnered in 2006. However the impact is consistently seen at a grassroots level: funds raised by the campaign are targeted towards small charities working in areas local to where the money is raised, like previous StreetSmart grant recipients Ace of Clubs. In fact, it's that local element that makes the campaign appealing- every donor knows that their money goes directly towards supporting the most vulnerable people in their area. StreetSmart runs throughout November and December, I would encourage everyone to support this fantastic campaign and make a difference to thousands of homeless people in the UK. You can find out which restaurants and hotels are taking part at streetsmart.org.uk.

3) Work with the experts: organisations like the London Community Foundation act as brokers to savvy corporate funders who want to support local, grassroots initiatives. LCF have established networks amongst local community groups, carry out checks to ensure that grant recipients are able to deliver programmes effectively, monitor impact and provide further support to their grant recipients as needed. What's more, they are part of the national Community Foundation Network, so there is almost certainly an equivalent organisation in your area. ukcommunityfoundations.org

4) Translate your expectations: need a Marketing degree to understand your brand guidelines? Could your reporting forms send even the most resilient NGO into a spin? Time to rethink what you ask of your partner. Consider creating brand guidelines and reporting forms that are suitable for small organisations who do not have dedicated Marketing or Impact Evaluation staff. Minimising the time your community partners needs to spend managing the relationship will free them up to spend more time creating impact on the ground.

5) Build a legacy: help fantastic NGOs to grow and develop over the long term, supporting their skills and resources with more than money. Many of our senior employees volunteer as trustees, helping to guide and protect the future of our valued community partners. It's a relationship that pays back: volunteers identified that they have learned and developed skills that can be utilised in the workplace, including teamwork, communication, tolerance, creative thinking and adaptability.

So little and large can go hand-in-hand, and in doing so support the fabric of our communities. Like any lasting relationship, it takes open communication, empathy and a little compromise - well worth it in the end.

Since 2013 we are proud that our Born to Be youth engagement programme has helped change the lives of more than 1.2 million young people through 130 individual education projects in 19 countries. For more information on Deutsche Bank's Born to Be youth engagement strategy visit db.com/uk/BorntoBe.

The winner of the 2015 Born to Be Award will be announced at the Centre for Social Justice Awards Ceremony, 24 November.

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Young people taking part in the sporteducate programme

Deutsche Bank is shortlisted for the Centre for Social Justice Awards 2015, which recognise UK charities that display innovation and effectiveness in addressing the root causes of poverty, transforming lives and reversing social breakdown. The Huffington Post UK is the media partner for the awards