At Work: Partnerships - Business partner

Mathew Little

Barclays is bringing business nous to its involvement with Leonard Cheshire.

Barclays, the fifth-largest corporate donor in the UK, according to the Charities Aid Foundation, is undergoing a self-proclaimed sea change in its culture of giving.

The bank says its community investment now "means a lot more than writing a big cheque" and has been refocused to capitalise on its corporate expertise.

"We had lots of different elements for our community programme before, but no core strategy, so it was difficult for charities and customers to understand what we were doing," says Kirstie Robbie, head of UK community relations.

Recent examples of the new approach include funding a Stonewall guide to civil partnerships and issuing grants to Help the Aged and NCH to promote financial literacy and debt advice.

The latest project to benefit from Barclays' largesse is a Leonard Cheshire scheme to help disabled people start their own businesses. The bank has donated £3m to the Ready to Start project, which will nurture 600 new business launches in 27 towns and cities across the UK over the next three years.

For Leonard Cheshire, it is by far and away the charity's biggest-ever corporate partnership. "It's a fantastic shop window to demonstrate what Leonard Cheshire is capable of in this area," says Mark Bishop, head of corporate fundraising.

Under the terms of the deal, Leonard Cheshire has sole responsibility for running the project but will tap into a pool of 600 Barclays volunteers who will mentor the budding entrepreneurs.

Bishop says the partnership is the most straightforward he has overseen.

"It's our programme, but they are funding it and providing the volunteers," he says. "It's important to have those lines clearly defined. We are the experts on disability and it makes sense that we run the programme."

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