The Coventry Building Society has worked with the Heart of England Community Foundation since 2012, and has used the Foundation’s expertise and knowledge of charities within Coventry and Warwickshire to support a variety of projects within the community in that time.
The Coventry Building Society has grown to become the second-largest building society in the UK after being founded in 1884. It employs around 2,500 people, and as a building society is owned by its members. It provides a range of financial products including savings accounts, bonds and mortgages for its members.
Investing in communities
The Coventry Building Society has had its own charitable foundation since 1998, which it uses to give grants to small charities and projects across the reach of its branch network as a way of supporting the communities it serves.
But over time, the building society began to struggle with handling all of the various applications from charities applying for grants.
It needed to find a specialist partner to help process those applications, determine which had the most merit, and would know exactly how the money given out by Coventry Building Society was going to be used.
Coventry Building Society decided to work with Community Foundations to achieve this, while still retaining partial control. Heart of England Community Foundation was chosen to handle projects in Coventry, Warwickshire, Birmingham and the Black Country due to their wealth of experience in the region.
Anna Cuskin, Corporate Responsibility Manager at the Coventry Building Society, said:
“We wanted our grants to be available to worthwhile projects in communities across our branch network, which stretches from Sheffield to Somerset.
“As a building society, we care about our members and we also care about the communities in which they live.
“But we found that we lacked the detailed knowledge to assess which projects were most able to benefit from our grants, especially when more and more applications were being made.
“Partnering with Community Foundations was the perfect solution. After researching several Foundations, we realised the Heart of England Community Foundation would be the ideal partner to deliver grants in our home region of Coventry and Warwickshire.”
The Heart of England Community Foundation now works closely with Coventry Building Society in delivering grants to projects in Coventry and Warwickshire.
Organisations based in the region, or those who are undertaking projects in the region, now apply for grants through Heart of England, saving Coventry Building Society valuable time.
All applications are assessed by the grants panel of the Heart of England Community Foundation at least four times a year.
The grants awarded tend to be relatively small, usually less than £2,000. And Coventry Building Society also wanted to support smaller charities, so grants are only given to groups with annual incomes of less than £250,000.
Priority is given to groups or activities aimed at improving the quality of life and opportunities in communities affected by disadvantage, deprivation and social exclusion.
One of the projects the Coventry Building Society supported through their partnership with the Heart of England Community Foundation is the ‘Men in Sheds’ initiative at George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton.
The project was started in many parts of the country by Age UK, and aims to bring together men who may be suffering from loneliness or social isolation.
The men meet up at George Eliot twice a week to socialise, share and learn new skills, have a go at being creative as well as having time for a drink and a chat – all in the welcoming space of a ‘shed’.
They have also helped build bird houses, tables, chairs and planters in and around the hospital.
“Without Heart of England Community Foundation’s close links, we might not have realised what a worthwhile project Men in Sheds is and as such may have overlooked it for a grant.
“It fits right in with our aims as a charitable foundation in terms of improving the lives of people in our communities.
“But that project is just one of many that have benefited from our partnership with the Foundation.
“The Foundation produces insightful reports about all our grant giving for us, so we can see exactly what groups and projects are being supported and how our grants make a difference to the communities we serve.
“They are an absolute pleasure to work with, and I would say any company looking to improve the way it gives grants or funds out to projects should get in touch with them.”