Two successful businessmen have joined forces to steer a West Yorkshire organisation currently distributing £4m+ annually to support people living in some of the most deprived areas of the region. This amounts to more than £57m distributed to date; an incredibly powerful figure, generated primarily by philanthropy from people living and working right here in West Yorkshire.
Nick Lane Fox, (pictured) owner of Bramham Park, is chair of Leeds Community Foundation and Cleveland Henry, Group Delivery and Deployment Director at EMIS Health, is deputy chair. A distinct difference in their backgrounds allows Nick and Cleveland to bring diverse perspectives to the robust strategic governance of Leeds Community Foundation, alongside Kate Hainsworth in her role as CEO of the organisation.
Cleveland, who has been a board member for three years, himself grew up in a deprived inner-city suburb of Leeds. “I’m from a very disadvantaged area, so I feel like now it’s my time to give back. Being in a fortunate position now as a successful business person, if my involvement can help just one person then that’s a success.
“The reality is that disadvantaged communities didn’t disappear as I grew up. They very much still exist in West Yorkshire now: there are huge disparities across the region and there’s a risk of that worsening.”
Cleveland added that the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis were deepening some of the issues facing West Yorkshire communities, placing a greater need for voluntary and community sector organisations such as Leeds Community Foundation to step in. The foundation gives grants of all sizes to specific community groups to address a range of social, economic and wellbeing issues over set periods of time.
“People want to be able to learn new skills, gain employment and be less isolated. And with the cost-of-living crisis now it’s quite frightening to see how a cycle of health and wellbeing issues force people to either remain stuck in or return to poverty. It’s all interlinked and must be addressed,” reflected Cleveland.
Nick added that before becoming involved with Leeds Community Foundation eight years ago, initially as a trustee, he had never heard of the concept of community foundations before. He explained: “When I heard all that they are able to help with, I thought that they sounded fantastic. You could say I’m a really firm advocate for community foundations now; the due diligence and the expert advice they have embedded throughout is incredible.
“They are the people who know the most about local problems. They are the people on the ground. Localism is key.”
Cleveland admits it’s easy to fall into a ‘bubble’ when working in busy jobs but that people in such positions have the ability to “create really positive legacies for communities on their doorstep which have lasting impacts for generations”. He said helping financially is what is really needed.
“People in this really fortuitous position are hard-working and ambitious, they should never feel ashamed of their success no matter what the wider economic environment is. But, what they could do is invest back into the region via Leeds Community Foundation, who do all the work to make a long lasting difference by delivering resources to where they are needed most,” explains Cleveland.
Nick, Cleveland and the team have been able to see first-hand how projects and groups who receive the financial and pastoral support utilise this. “It’s amazing to see that even the smallest amount of money can have positive effects if applied to the right area in the right way. And the right way is by empowering the community itself to decide and implement the change,” said Nick.
“Going beyond this, it’s crucial to understand the impact and outcomes of how every grant helps to shape a positive way forward and understand exactly what is making a difference, why and where. The Foundation is one of the catalysts to share this information, which is so important for everybody working hard to create a fairer society across our region.”
Reflecting on the challenges facing people in the region, he explained: “We are undoubtedly about to face a very difficult time for people who will have even less and less money in their lives. The work of the foundation will become even more vitally important.”
Speaking of his role as chair of the board, Nick said: “It’s our job to set the direction and ensure the charity fulfils its objectives appropriately - it’s a privilege to be involved.
“But I also implore people I know to consider helping by giving money to funds. Of the people I’ve asked, the universal thing is that they want to give back to the area they live and work - to their neighbours. We need that philosophy more than ever right now.”
There are a number of ways to support Leeds Community Foundation. This includes donating to The Leeds Fund, a direct, well-established and compelling way to improve the lives of thousands of people. To find out more about how you can help, contact Helen Ball, Development Director at Leeds Community Foundation on firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.leedscf.org.uk