Leeds 'a beacon city for compassion' - charity boss says

'Let's make a plan and work together. There will be plenty in it for you. This is not a one-way street. There is a huge amount you get back and a huge amount of staff engagement and a huge amount that goes on to you credit rating in terms of what you are doing, but also meaning in terms of your community values.'

Date: 24th May 2018. Picture James Hardisty. YP-Business Leeds Community Foundation, St Paul's Street, Leeds. Pictured Kate Hainsworth, CEO, of Leeds Community Foundation.

These words are the rallying cry to business of Kate Hainsworth, the new chief executive of Leeds Community Foundation, as she attempts to bolster corporate support for the work the group does in the region.

Ms Hainsworth, who boasts a diverse business pedigree across industries such as oil and marketing and has been in post for just a few weeks, told The Yorkshire Post she wants Leeds Community Foundation (LCF) to act as a broker between firms and good causes.

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“I worked in business and you are often looking at return on investment and how quickly it will come in,” she said.

“And obviously there is always a drive for efficiency that never goes away. But it is an absolute mistake to think there is no efficiency in a community project where everybody wants that thing to happen out of the good of their heart.

“We all care about society, I know business does massively. But it is knowing what to do about it and what difference you can make across so many projects involving thousands of people. I think that is where this organisation does a really good job. It is able to put people who want to do something in touch with the reality of what they can do.”

Ms Hainsworth said a large part of what she called the “high challenge, high support” nature of the work LCF did involved matching expectation of business and community groups to deliver what both need.

“Still too often people think just giving time is what organisations want, but that is not the case, it really isn’t,” she said.

Date: 24th May 2018. Picture James Hardisty. YP-Business Leeds Community Foundation, St Paul's Street, Leeds. Pictured Kate Hainsworth, CEO, of Leeds Community Foundation.

“Community groups can generally get volunteers but what they cannot get is the cash that allows them to be strategic in the long-term. It might be at scale that business might think is a bit small, but actually to be able to say ‘I kept the dinners going that place week-in week-out for years’ is a massive thing to be able to say.

“It applies to all of our dealings. I feel that towards business we will support you as best as we can to get an outcome for you, so that you can point with pride to something that is meaningful for your business and help engage your staff in a way that really motivates them. We will give you as much support as we can. But it is a two-way street and takes a bit of time to develop.

“The perception has been it is all about the grand gesture and the handout. In the olden days that was how it worked. But things have changed and more people want to be philanthropists, which is great.”

Ms Hainsworth added that LCF was able to do much of the hard yards in terms of compliance and administration for individuals and organisations wishing to philanthropic work.

“We have a number of funds as we found that people who wanted to give wanted something they could have actual ownership of. People, firms or individuals, who want to set up charitable arms there is a lot of work to be done. What we can do for them is do all of that.

“It runs under our charity number, we do the due diligence and they have the opportunity to run a fund in their name with particular purposes and it happens all under our umbrella. And trustees have oversight of everything and apply their expertise to help.”

Ms Hainsworth pointed to the recent success of a campaign to help children on frees school meals in the holiday time as a big success for the foundation.

She added that bridging gaps in the city was another of LCF’s aims.

“If we in Leeds are able to start making inroads into divisions and bring people together around collective action that in itself is as pioneering for the city for high tech firms which we are rightly proud of.

“Leeds is a beacon city for compassion, it really is.

“Every one has community values, what better way it to show it than to walk the talk.

“Leeds and Bradford and rich in excellent companies.”

Visit www.leedscf.org.uk for further information on the work the charity does.