Manchester – this is the place where the UK Community Foundations Conference ‘Acting now to shape tomorrow’ took place and community foundation representatives from all over Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain) and other parts of the world (Mexico, USA, South Africa, Australia) joined in.
This way, the conference happened to be a very colourful und unique gathering of like-minded people from all over the world, thanks to European Community Foundation Initiative (ECFI) who offered support and Rosemary McDonald, CEO of UK Community Foundations who was very open to the idea of inviting community foundations practitioners from the mainland and warmly welcomed us.
We met for a pre-meeting at the offices of Oscar Recruitment with breath-taking views and great weather, where Nick Massey CEO of Forever Manchester took us on a journey of the Manchester Community Foundation development. Coming from Germany, the humorous, entertaining, and sometimes self-deprecating way of presenting was a pleasure. It particularly struck me to hear, that they took a year off for a rebranding process during which they did not make any grants, in order to fully concentrate on this task. The outcome was a strategy that abandoned large government programmes and focused on an ABCD approach, that aims to engage with the community and involve people in the work of the community foundation. The work of the foundation was to be less externally or top-down driven, i.e., by government programmes or individual donors, but rather followed a bottom-up approach. Consequentially they speak of customers and community builders who are shaping the work of the community foundation and not of grant recipients anymore. I like the new logo that came with the rebranding – two hearts fused together in an infinity sign and the specially commissioned poem ‘This is the place’ by the well-known poet Tony Walsh.
I was thrilled to see many similarities between the Forever Manchester bottom-up approach and the German Community Foundation model! One question however remained unanswered: Building an endowment is a USP of a Community Foundation and a distinctive criterion to other charitable organisations – how can the balancing act of building up the necessary endowment for a sustainable community organisation succeed while focusing on the interests, needs and competences of the local community.
The official opening of the conference was at the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel with an inspiring speech of the Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham. The community foundation representatives from all over the world than mingled with the 350 participants, were part of the programme and had lively discussions with other attendees. There was a great interest in each other and the desire to continue and expand the exchange prevailed, which was good to see.
Two topics particularly draw my attention. How UKCF made dormant trusts accessible for Community Foundations. To ‘free’ or wake up this money, let it work again and herewith cause social impact was a great achievement of UKCF. Germany has dormant trusts too and estimates range from 2 – 9 billion euros. But it is the only country in the G7 that has no legal regulation regarding dormant trusts so far. There are calls for a public register but without success so far.
Last but not least, I would like to mention the SDG session with Dr. Stephan Cibian, James Magowan and Dana Decent, connected from Canada. For many of us, the motto ‘think global act local’ already has become a mantra. I think Stephan’s proposal for an international joint action to create greater awareness for the local SDG activities of community foundations at the UN is something we should follow up to.
Ulrike Reichart, Alliance of German Community Foundations