The nature of grant funding means that Benefact Trust can often be involved from the very start of charitable projects at the early concept stage, which is very exciting. But whether we’re funding a brand-new initiative or an established and successful project, it’s always important to check back in to see what impact our grants are making. And when we visit projects and hear stories from the people whose lives have been transformed, it has a huge impact on us too – and inspires us to do even more.
The positive outcomes we all want
We’re always keen to get updates and feedback on how the project is progressing, to help us gauge the impact of our funding and the project as a whole. For smaller grants we can do this through an online questionnaire – for bigger, transformational projects there’s an ongoing dialogue.
“It’s about relationships and keeping in touch,” explains Paul. “If projects come up against a barrier, we can help suggest ways to move forward. After all, everyone involved wants the funding to be used to achieve good outcomes”. And of course, it’s always gratifying to find out that an initiative is having the impact that was intended. But what has the greatest impact on Paul, is seeing and hearing first-hand, how our funding changes lives for the better.
From despair to hope
Betel UK is a Birmingham-based charity that supports victims of substance abuse, ex-offenders and people experiencing homelessness. They offer valuable peer support and help provide people with employment opportunities through a variety of social enterprises. They’re doing great work, and have supported more than 14,000 individuals. The charity wanted to build a new headquarters that would also house other facilities, in quite a disadvantaged area of the city; so we were really excited to be able to support this wonderful cause with a grant.
Paul points to the experience you can’t get from a questionnaire: “In autumn last year I was invited to the official opening of Betel UK’s new complex. One of the social enterprises they run is a cafe, and here I met a woman who has directly benefited from Betel UK’s work. At the age of 24, her life had been in a cycle of despair, until she reluctantly got involved with the charity. There was a sparkle in her eyes when she described the changes that Betel UK had helped instigate: she was now married, had children and was happy. When you visit these projects you realise how they’re transforming people’s lives, and that’s what makes this job so special.”
Paul also recalls his first visit to a project seven years ago. At the Droitwich Spa Salvation Army he saw the challenges they faced first hand. He met a mother who attends a parent/toddler group there, who needed support. Paul continues: “Her words have always stayed with me: ‘When there was no hope, they gave me hope’. That’s what it’s all about for me.”
Influence from the outset
Paul is also appreciative of the fact that the Trust has an important part to play in how our grants can open up more opportunities for other funders to get involved.
He says, “Benefact Trust was one of the first to help fund the building of a new hostel for London YMCA. Although we played only a small part in this huge £19 million project, when we awarded a grant in 2015, we were one of the first funders. Often, we come in as early funders, which can be encouragement for other organisations to get involved.”
The real heroes
Of course, it’s always important to remember we’re not the heroes in these stories. But all our teams, including our Grants Officers, have the passion and personal interest to stay involved long after grants are awarded, to follow up on the impact projects and charities are able to make, and to find out how our funding has transformed lives for the better.
Paul sums up: “The beneficiaries of our grants, the people running the projects at the ‘coalface’: they’re the heroes. When you meet someone who’s life has been turned around because of the drive and commitment of those people, it’s such a privilege to have been involved.”