PUBLISHED: 12:10 04 November 2014 | UPDATED: 16:58 04 November 2014
Money may not bring you happiness, but giving money away, just might. Essex Life gets to the root of the issue with a look at how charitable giving may change your life
Being rich is something most of us dream about from time to time, especially after a glance through the Essex Life Richest 50. What would we do if we won the lottery, ran a massively successful business or inherited a fortune to earn our place in that illustrious list? Advice on how to deal with money can be found everywhere, but it is rarely better summed up than in the maxim, ‘It is better to give than to receive’.
To find local proof that there is truth in these words, look no further than the Essex Community Foundation (ECF), an independent charitable trust dedicated to managing funds on behalf of individuals, families and companies and distributing grants from these funds to local charities and voluntary organisations.
ECF matches those who want to give with those who need support, making sure this is done in the most effective and efficient way. Since it was launched in 1996, ECF has distributed more than £23 million to a huge variety of charities and voluntary organisations, most of them working at a grassroots level in Essex, Southend and Thurrock.
ECF was established by Ian Marks,a member of the Trebor family who lives in Essex. Through his hard work and philanthropy he created something which is making a vast contribution to the quality of life of people in Essex.
Ian’s son, Nic, has followed in his father’s footsteps in being concerned about people’s wellbeing. Nic is the director of Happiness Works, a business that builds tools to create better workplaces. He is a world-renowned speaker, author and founder of the London Centre for Wellbeing and has made happiness his area of expertise.
Nic undertakes research into the use of wellbeing indicators for governments, companies and individuals and created the Five Ways to wellbeing which are evidence-based ways to become a happier person. One of the Five Ways is to give.
Nic explains: ‘Giving is good for you. An interesting piece of research used an experiment to demonstrate this. £100 was given to two groups of people. The first group was instructed to spend it on themselves and the second group to spend it on other people. Afterwards, the second group’s spirits were significantly higher. If you don’t have cash, you can give your time, your attention or your expertise instead. Happiness can seem to be elusive, but there are simple pathways to achieving it. The act of giving is one of the most powerful.’
Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of ECF, adds: ‘Giving is a very personal decision and people support charitable causes for many different reasons.
‘It can be an emotive response to an appeal or related to their life experiences. Individuals, families and businesses have, through ECF, discovered the feel-good factor involved in giving and have also established a substantial pool of resources to ensure ongoing support for the vital work of the voluntary sector in Essex.
‘We work with many people who are in a position to give money to charity and want to contribute to their community. Giving locally is becoming increasingly important to people who want to support charitable organisations. But deciding on where to give support can be difficult, as people may not know which organisations exist, how to find the right ones, or how to be sure their money will be spent wisely.
‘ECF’s extensive knowledge of the local charitable sector gives our fundholders and supporters the insight and information they need to channel their charitable giving in the best way. The feedback we receive makes it clear that giving locally makes people feel more involved and they can often see at first hand the impact of their generosity.
‘The great spin-off from this is a real sense of community cohesion, which enhances so many areas of local life. We want to help more donors make their giving more effective and for local charities and community groups to have the support that ECF can give.’
Here are some of the funds that ECF helps provide efficient and effective financial support to local charities…
The Bartella Charitable Fund
Essex-based Jason Bartella, managing director of the Heritage Leisure Group and a trustee of ECF, is a modern-day philanthropist who has personal experience of the joys of giving.
He openly acknowledges that he and his family are in a privileged position, but is emphatic that being able to give locally through a fund his family has established with ECF is one of the most rewarding areas of his life.
Jason comments: ‘From the start, we said that we wanted the money from our fund to be spent in the Chelmsford area, where our main businesses are based, but working with ECF has given us a wider view and we are now happy to go further afield if ECF presents us with a project which feels right.
‘We also said that ideally we wanted to support organisations working with children and families. It is good to know that the money we give goes directly to the charities we want to support, with only a minimal amount taken for administration. The money in our fund can, through ECF, achieve a much better rate through investment and the good it does will go on in perpetuity.
‘ECF discusses with us the applications they have received for funding and we choose which ones we would like to support. Through ECF we can be involved in the organisations we support and we can also see the outcome of the money we give. I tell everyone I can about ECF because I am so passionate about it. When I was asked to become a trustee it was a massive compliment, but also a massive decision, as I don’t like to do anything half-heartedly. I have to say that it is a big responsibility, but I love every minute of it.’
Hew Watt Family Charitable Fund
Dr Trudy Watt has had the pleasure of seeing a fund named after her father, Hew Watt, make a major difference in Thurrock, where he was a farmer. The Hew Watt Family Charitable Fund, established with ECF 10 years ago, has supported 100 projects in the area including a new educational centre at the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, a support group for visually impaired people, activities for teenagers and a debt counselling service.
Trudy explains: ‘My father was a very special person. He cared first and foremost for people, of whatever background. This was one of the reasons why, in 1992, my parents and I set up the Hew Watt Family Charitable Trust to support charities in the area where we lived.
‘After my parents died I was still chairing the trust, but because I was living and working in Oxford it was quite a challenge for me to give the fund my full attention. My solicitor, who was one of the trustees, suggested ECF might be able to help us. I was a little sceptical at first, as I didn’t want our family trust to lose its identity. To my relief, I discovered ECF was as keen as I was to ensure that the fund stayed true to its purpose and that I could remain as involved as I wanted. The process of transferring the trust to ECF was very simple.
‘Since then I have been on such a wonderful journey with ECF and learned so much about what is going on in the area where I grew up and, although I haven’t lived there for many years, the fund helps me to still feel very connected. It is heart-warming for me to know that my family’s legacy is supporting local voluntary organisations and people, and that it will continue to do so in the future.’
Essex charities that need your help
The Steets2Homes day centre in Harlow gives help and support to homeless people. A grant of £865 from ECF has enabled the charity to offer arts and crafts sessions to the people they support, giving a boost to their self-esteem and helping them to discover hidden talents. The sessions proved very popular and covered drawing, painting, modelling and card making. Kerrie Eastman from Streets2Homes explains: ‘Many of those who have taken part have discovered hidden talents and a positive way to express their feelings through art. The project has been so successful in providing clients with something constructive and creative to take part in, exploring and growing new interests and talents.’
Headway Essex, part of the UK-wide organisation that supports people with acquired brain injury, has received regular support from ECF with grants totalling £125,000. Among those who have received support from Headway Essex is Oliver Game, who at the age of 20 suffered a devastating head injury when his motorbike was involved in a collision with a car. Oliver, now 26, was able to re-build his life with the help of Headway’s day centre in Colchester and has now returned to work as a painter, as a member of the maintenance team at Colchester Zoo. He said: ‘Headway has shown how committed it is to helping me and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if they hadn’t been there for me.’
Essex & Herts
The Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust, unlike NHS emergency services, is a charity providing a free life-saving Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for the critically ill and injured of Essex, Hertfordshire and surrounding areas. Specialist Doctors and Critical Care Paramedics can be rushed to the scene of an incident with life-saving support equipment to deliver advanced clinical care that is normally only found in a hospital emergency department. Once stabilised, the patient will be conveyed by air or land to the most appropriate hospital for their needs. With no direct funding from the Government or National Lottery, the trust relies solely upon the people and businesses of Essex and Hertfordshire to remain operational and keep saving lives.
When a family has been told that there’s no cure for their loved one’s illness and all that can be done is to make life comfortable, Havens Hospices can help. Fair Havens Hospice at Westcliff-on-Sea and Little Havens Hospice in Thundersley focus on the individual needs of the adults and children in their care, aiming to ‘make every day count’ for those with life-limiting illnesses and their families. These hospices are the only place in the area wholly dedicated to looking after those with an illness which could shorten their life.
Helen Rollason Cancer Charity
The Helen Rollason Cancer Charity is a cancer charity based in Chelmsford which funds cancer support centres and research into the disease. It was founded in 1999 and is the legacy of Helen Rollason MBE, who died of cancer aged 43. Her vision was to provide support for cancer patients’ emotional wellbeing as well as treating them medically. The charity operates a network of three cancer support centres in southeast England.
Farleigh Hospice is a registered charity which provides hospice care to people affected by life-limiting illnesses across mid Essex. Since being established in 1982, the hospice and its team of healthcare professionals has grown and evolved to meet the changing needs of the community it serves. A person affected by any illness that is considered life limiting (eg cancer, neurological disease, chronic heart, lung and renal disease) can access the services provided by Farleigh Hospice at any stage of their illness.
Autism Anglia is an independent charity which provides care and support to children, adults and families affected by autism. It provides services across Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, managed from offices in Colchester and Dereham, and offers personalised approaches that provide each individual with the necessary skills and strategies to enable them to realise their own strengths and abilities. The charity also seeks to promote a greater knowledge and understanding of autism through training, education and supplying information to the public and professionals.
Find out more
ECF offers a professional, flexible, tailormade service to help individuals, organisations, companies and public agencies achieve their charitable objectives, whatever their level of giving or area of interest. Voluntary organisations can apply for grant funding through ECF at any time via ECF’s website www.essexcommunityfoundation.org.uk