Birmingham-based financial mutual Wesleyan launched the Wesleyan Foundation in partnership with Heart of England Community Foundation in 2017, with the aim to give up to £1 million a year to good causes.
Wesleyan provides specialist financial services for professionals, particularly doctors, dentists, teachers and lawyers. It was founded in Birmingham in 1841 and in recent years has developed a highly successful business model providing tailored financial advice and products to select professional groups, as well as a range of commercial financial products for the organisations in which they are employed.
Wanting to do more
As a mutual, Wesleyan is committed to doing the right thing for its members, customers, employees and for the communities in which they all live and work.
It wanted to find a way to reach into local communities and support those grassroots, volunteer-led projects that make a real difference across the UK.
The firm considered launching its own charity, but quickly realised it would require a specialist partner to assist with this due to the vast amount of administration, legal and marketing knowledge required.
After researching how other leading brands distribute charity funds, Wesleyan decided to look for a community foundation to work with which would limit the internal workload required to run the charity while still offering partial control.
It was introduced to Heart of England Community Foundation by Sir Dominic Cadbury, one of the Foundation’s trustees, and found out more about the work it does not only across the West Midlands, but its links to other community foundations across the UK.
The Foundation’s experienced team liaised with eight other foundations from Scotland through to Bristol benefitting more than 73,000 individuals.
“Our core value is ‘we care’ and we are serious about our corporate social responsibility.
“We wanted to find a way of donating funds to good causes that are important to both employees and our customers, but after doing some research we found that setting up our own charity was a huge minefield and required expert knowledge which we did not have internally.
“We were looking to fund organisations that deliver services around four key themes – promotion of health and well-being, education, innovation, and social development, so we wanted a partner which gave us an element of control over who we could support, which is when we were introduced to Heart of England Community Foundation.”
Wesleyan and Heart of England Community Foundation worked closely together on developing the Wesleyan Foundation by looking at priorities, the types of grants it could give out, how it could operate nationally and most importantly, what involvement Wesleyan would want in the delivery.
It was agreed that Heart of England Community Foundation would manage all of the small grants of up to £2,000, while Wesleyan would participate in decision-making panels when looking to distribute larger grants of between £2,000 and £10,000.
The Wesleyan Foundation was launched in 2017 and celebrated distributing an amazing £1 million just over one year since it launched.
Since its conception, 299 projects have been supported that align with Wesleyan’s four key themes: heath, education, social development and innovation. The diversity has been vast including portable dentists in Poole, financial support for law students in Scotland and a group in Birmingham supporting young girls who are at risk of offending.
“Wesleyan has a legacy of supporting great causes, and the Wesleyan Foundation has enabled us to take that to the next level.
“We chose to work with Heart of England Community Foundation not just because of the team’s expertise and knowledge, but also their dedication and true passion for what they do.
“We have a brilliant relationship with the Foundation and trust them to work within our parameters to deliver our small grants.
“In turn, they offer flexibility by giving us the opportunity to assist with administering our larger grants which is very important and gives us the chance to engage with our staff and customers about what causes they would like to support.
“It is part of our philanthropic objectives that Wesleyan staff members have an active involvement in our foundation.
“We have not only heard stories from some of the incredible organisations that we have funded, but staff have also been able to use volunteering days to provide further support.
“Heart of England Community Foundation has an incredible amount of local knowledge, but also links with sister foundations across the UK which means we can spread our funding wider should we wish to, and they know exactly what we want to fund as a business.
“The team has helped us fund projects we would never have heard of and continuously puts in an incredible amount of effort so we know that every penny we give is making a difference. They aren’t just colleagues, they are genuine friends.”