April Armstrong, Community Giving Manager, probably has one of the best job titles in Co-op. Here she tells us about how the Local Community Fund team guides our local causes through the journey from being chosen to receiving the money, and beyond.
We talk about £20m like it’s £20 sometimes. That’s an amazing amount of money we’ve given through our Local Community Fund, it’s not just a number. It touches so many people’s lives and it’s why November’s Celebration day was a proud day for everyone – and an extra special moment for our team.
That’s because we work behind the scenes on the Local Community Fund. On what some people might call the ‘process’ bit – making sure the fund runs like clockwork all-year round.
But we don’t do this on our own. So many teams work together across the organisation to keep everything going – it’s probably one of the most co-operative things we’re doing in Co-op right now.
Checking causes are eligible
It’s so important we make sure our members’ money is spent in the right way so a strict checking process is needed.
First check: We work with the Membership Contact Centre team – a mini army of people who do the first check on a project to make sure it meets our criteria. Does it benefit the community or is it an individual who wants to save rhinos in Africa? That’s a lovely conservation project but it wouldn’t be eligible for our fund.
Stores/funeral homes are part of the process too: Without colleagues in stores and funeral homes we wouldn’t be able to put the ‘local’ in Local Community Fund. It’s their local knowledge that makes this fund unique. These aren’t decisions made in a central place – they’re made by the people who know what their community needs.
Final check: The Charities Aid Foundation (an organisation that helps UK and international charities and their donors) do one last check to make sure the cause is eligible. They’re also responsible for paying the money to our local causes.
Keeping in touch with local causes
Our local causes get so much more than money from us. They have the support of our colleagues in stores and funeral homes, as well as our Co-op Engagement Advisors. And then there’s over 200 Member Pioneers whose role it is to bring colleagues, local causes and members together.
Even though all that’s going on, our team continue to work in the background building relationships with our local causes. We contact them every month and show them how to make the most of the fund – like going into stores and talking to our members, or how to do their own promotion in their communities.
We’ve now extended the funding period to 11 months which means we’ve got loads more time to build a relationship with them. The first payment is due out at the end of this month.
That’s the Co-op circle that Steve Murrells talked about. If a cause tells their supporters about the fund, there’s a great chance of them becoming members and starting to buy Co-op products and services. The more people buy, the more we can give back, and the more we can make a difference in communities.
How colleagues can help us
If colleagues just did three things it would help our Local Community Fund reach another level:
- Contribute to the 1% by buying Co-op brand products and services – it’s even better now double discount is back and we’ve cut prices in store.
- Go online and choose your local cause
- Tell other members to shop Co-op and choose a cause.
Community Giving Manager