Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Merseyside gets business on board to fight poverty

Anita Pati, anita.pati@haynet.com

The Community Foundation for Merseyside aims to regenerate the area with the help of local companies.

The Community Foundation for Merseyside has devised a campaign to enlist local businesses in the battle against urban deprivation.

The In Good Company initiative was developed to help Merseyside businesses invest in local communities and to revive pride in the area.

"Liverpool has nine of the top 15 most deprived wards in the country," said Jack Miller, corporate fundraiser at the foundation. "We're trying to get as many companies as possible involved because there's an obvious duty to help."

Community foundations, established in the UK in the late 1970s, are charitable trusts that support community causes.

In Good Company will provide businesses with access to expert advice on charitable giving and guidance on how to deliver their CSR programmes as well as helping them to hit company targets.

It will run an outreach programme to pinpoint areas of community need and conduct a brokering service to open dialogue between small groups and business. Membership brings advertising and networking opportunities, press coverage and a dedicated manager.

The initiative has already enlisted local businesses: founder members are the Co-operative Bank, HSBC, Liverpool Students Union, Liverpool John Moores University, Cullen Financial Planning, Sonae UK, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and radio stations The Rocket 107.6 and Dune FM. Several other companies have also expressed interest.

Alison Clare, commercial manager at HSBC, said: "When we discussed the benefits HSBC could gain from becoming members of In Good Company, it didn't take us long to realise how we, and our customers, would profit from being associated with the foundation.

"In Good Company has given HSBC the opportunity to meet like-minded companies - those companies that want to help their community and give something back to the area in which we operate."

The Community Foundation's most successful initiative to date is the Green Machine, a grant-giving mechanism whose remit is to 'green up' environmental black spots throughout the Wirral area in Merseyside.

COMMENT - JO MCGRATH, REGIONAL PROGRAMME MANAGER, BUSINESS IN THE COMMUNITY

The growth of community foundations and the rate of formation of new ones prove they are a serious and permanent part of the NGO sector in the UK.

Particularly interesting is the pleasure corporate donors take in being close to the impact of their grants rather than giving more impersonally to national projects.

Business in the Community works in partnership with the Community Foundation for Merseyside. The foundation recognises that we can add value to its current offer - for example, if a company allocates a grant and wants to go one step further by sending out a group of employee volunteers, we can help deliver this.

I believe that although grant giving is important to local communities, the 'offer' can be enhanced by brokering business skills to help a project's sustainability.

Partnerships with agencies with expertise in the area of CSR will be key to making this a success.

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