Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Side by side

The National Deaf Children's Society has set up a series of family sign language classes across Scotland with financial help from Clydesdale Bank.

KERRY MANTON, corporate fundraising officer, the National Deaf Children's Society

We already had a relationship with Clydesdale's parent bank, National Australia Bank, in Northern Ireland, running signing classes - which went down a treat. When that ended, I asked if it would extend the relationship - it told me to approach Clydesdale, which was looking for a charity partner.

Last December, Irene asked me to send her a 'shopping list' of opportunities and we agreed on a programme in February. Two of the courses started this summer, with two more to come this year. They are run by our family officer in Scotland in association with local councils, which provide the venues.

The only challenge we've experienced is that we expected Clydesdale would have a big beast of a PR department, but it was actually rather small because of structural changes. This meant that getting speedy approval for press releases was difficult, so we temporarily took over the press office function.

We find Clydesdale approachable and clear in what it wants - something I have rarely found in my years of fundraising.

IRENE SWANKIE, community affairs manager, Clydesdale Bank

We chose to support family sign language classes because communication, particularly financial literacy and numeracy, is a prerequisite for customers using our bank. Our parent bank was already running family signing classes in Northern Ireland, and I liked the idea of including the whole family in them.

The scheme also complements our CSR agenda. We like the fact it operates at a grass-roots level in the community. NDCS advised us on which communities in Scotland had the greatest need for signing. We have paid for four training courses, each to run for six to 10 weeks at local schools in Aberdeen and Kilmarnock. We've got our staff involved in introducing the courses and attending the first session. One of our senior managers has a child with a hearing implant, and he attended. I learned the deaf alphabet in the first lesson.

The project is on a small scale at this stage while we find out how to work with each other, but there may be an opportunity to work in a broader capacity when it ends.

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