More than Money

Interview with Rachel Engel, Head of the Macquarie Group Foundation, EMEA

Rachel Engel heads the Macquarie Group Foundation, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), the philanthropic arm of Macquarie Group - a financial services institution with more than 13,500 employees globally.  

With over 16 years experience in the not-for-profit sector, Rachel has previously held positions with the John Grooms charity, AOL UK and the East London Business Alliance (ELBA).  Rachel is also a Trustee of Streetwise Opera and a board member of Islington Giving, which has raised over £4 million for local causes in the past five years.

In 2012 the Macquarie Group Foundation and Islington Giving partnered to found the BIG Alliance (Business for Islington Giving) which aims to address the issues of poverty, lack of opportunity and unemployment in the Borough of Islington. 

 

What is the Macquarie Group Foundation’s strategy on CSR?
We don’t have a central CSR strategy. Macquarie has an embedded approach which means our community, diversity and inclusion, environmental and sustainability strategies span across our different business units.

Our community activity is also staff led - so you won’t hear us talking about ‘charity of the year’ or even a specific theme.  It’s about how our staff want to engage and what’s important to them. We have a significant matching program that is available for staff who are fundraising or donating to specific organisation.

Last year we celebrated 30 years of giving, where our people around the world have raised £120 million and volunteered 33,500 hours to help 1,500 community organisations globally.  

What is your funding approach?
We have a portfolio of eight organisations which have multi-year strategic grant partnerships, each one of them has a history of staff engagement. These organisations range from the largest youth organisation in the UK, the Prince’s Trust, to Streetwise Opera, a small arts and homelessness organisation with a global reach. We fund innovative projects, small start-ups, and capacity building initiatives where we can see real opportunities to make a difference.

How did you get involved in Islington Giving and why is it important?
Our European headquarters is located in the Borough of Islington, on the City fringe. We have an ethos of supporting the communities in which we live and work and we knew there was enormous need in the borough. The challenge for us was how to get involved with local organisations as there were over 1000 active charities, but relatively few business volunteers. We were looking for a partner which had local knowledge and was also robust enough to take our business volunteers – Islington Giving was the right partner and has given us an opportunity to invest in our local area.

How did the BIG Alliance come about?
Serendipity. My predecessor met Kristina Glenn, Director of Cripplegate Foundation, at an ACF (Association of Charitable Foundation) conference – they built a relationship around a shared vision for supporting Islington. We began the CoRe programme (Community Resourcing) in partnership with Cripplegate, a programme to build capacity the voluntary sector through skilled business volunteer placements.

Cripplegate Foundation then set up Islington Giving and asked if Macquarie would join. We felt that we wanted to be a partner in Islington Giving and use our skills and expertise as well as funding. We wanted to expand our reach into the borough through skilled employee volunteering.

There weren’t any school mentoring programmes in the borough or community brokers to help businesses like ours engage at a grassroots level with the community. Islington Giving did not have the experience of supporting business volunteers. So we took this opportunity to form the BIG Alliance – a network of businesses aimed at creating social change in the borough. We now have 15 companies who are members of the BIG Alliance.

What is BIG?
BIG is managed by the East London Business Alliance (ELBA) and provides training, induction, support and troubleshooting to ensure that the volunteering opportunities are of high quality. BIG has matched 1000s of volunteers with professional skills including business planning, accountancy, legal, HR, marketing, and CV writing with charities across the borough. We have created the borough’s first formal schools mentoring programme with Year 10 and 12 students (six schools and the local college engaged) and we hope to provide mentoring support to every Islington Secondary School by 2019. BIG has also worked with employers and the council to support employability and jobs for local people.

As principal funder we have invested over £300,000 over five years in Islington Giving and we are committed to providing continued support to this initiative. 

What are the key challenges of working collaboratively?
Who would have thought that Cripplegate Foundation, set up over 500 years ago, would be working with a relatively new (by comparison) Australian financial services firm like Macquarie? But it works. We both appreciated the other’s contribution and we worked hard to manage our expectations. The challenges with working collaboratively are always going to be around communication. But I think if you follow the three rules of engagement as below, you can’t go to wrong:

· Understanding each other’s business – what are your needs, what are their needs, and do you know what expectations each partner has?

· Mindset – what does success look like and do you have the same goals and approach? If not, how will you get to where you want to be?

· Chemistry – do you talk the same language, have a similar working culture and ultimately enjoy working together? Your business might be all together different but some of the best collaborations have come from a diversity of thinking and culture.

What top tips would you give prospective applicants when they approach business for support?

First do your research on the company, its aims, its giving, its policy on staff engagement and if it has a local approach

· All companies are different but it’s important to find an internal champion

· View it and sell it as a potential partnership, a two-way street. Remember community partnerships can be great brand opportunities for businesses  

· Don’t be shy and be straightforward about your request. Be open, clear and transparent in what you want and how the business could give it to you

· Have a face-to-face conversation if you can, don’t just email and avoid cold calling, it doesn’t work.

Good luck.