Sussex in the City 2019: Community philanthropy is coming of age


Kevin Richmond


Back in April 2019, our Head of Philanthropy, Stephen Chamberlain, made a ‘seeing-is-believing’ visit with Violet Hancock, the current High Sheriff of East Sussex. The visit was to an amazing charity called Enthum Foundation. There, they heard from Lilian Simonsson who had volunteered for a number of years at the Calais Jungle refugee camp and had been heavily involved in setting up local refugee support groups.

Lilian co-founded Enthum Foundation in 2011, and Enthum House in Eastbourne opened its doors last year, offering a safe and sustainable home to unaccompanied asylum seeking children aged 16-18.

Enthum House is exactly the kind of project we love to support at Sussex Community Foundation: local people seeing an issue that needs resolving or people that need supporting, who then set about finding a way to make that happen.

It struck a chord with Violet too. Violet is a friend of Stephen Welton, the founder of BGF, a hugely successful investment partner for growing companies and start-ups in the UK – also founded in 2011. At the time, we were busy making plans for our Sussex in the City event and so were delighted when Violet suggested she ask Stephen to be our keynote speaker. Stephen agreed and the event was held last week at the splendid Museum of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell, hosted by Violet and her husband, Tim.

I met with Stephen a few months ago to discuss the event and, the more we talked, the more we heard each other saying similar words and enthusing about similar values.

There seemed to be many parallels in our approach. Where BGF is investing in businesses which meet customer needs and create wealth and prosperity, Sussex Community Foundation is investing in charities that address social needs and build strong communities.

Just like us, BGF finds inspiring start-ups, led by people who look at problems and see solutions, people who have the ideas commitment and passion to transform the way we think or the way we do things, and those who are prepared to put in whatever it takes to be successful.

Similarly, as funders, community foundations are unique in that we are keen to fund new community groups and charities, often untried and untested by other funders. At the start of their journey is precisely when these third sector entrepreneurs need the support, that initial vote of confidence.

Again, like us, BGF has the wisdom to know that while these new leaders may need funding, they already have the direction and often know exactly what they need. Like them, we don’t demand control of the charity that we invest in but support it to allow it to decide its own direction and strategy.

The world of investment management is changing and many people are talking about a new vision of capitalism, one where people do not have to choose between making money and doing good but can do both at the same time.

BGF is a model of great investment. Sussex Community Foundation is a model for great philanthropy.

Community philanthropy is coming of age and we are delighted that leaders like Stephen Welton are so supportive of the ways we can work together to help our communities make the changes they want to see.

Kevin Richmond is Chief Executive of Sussex Community Foundation

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