Speaking notes - Diana Spiegelberg, Director, the Kensington and Chelsea Foundation

Speaking notes from Learning from London's Giving event - 24th February 2015

Speaking notes – Learning from London’s Giving event 24th February 2015
Diana Spiegelberg, Director, the Kensington & Chelsea Foundation

The Kensington & Chelsea Foundation is a catalyst for local giving and community engagement. Our mantra is that charity begins at home. Our starting point is to raise awareness for the disparities that exist on our doorstep and to champion the work of local charities and community groups that all too often fall under people’s radars.

We make it simpler and more rewarding for local residents and businesses to make a difference close to home.

We provide advice, encouragement and reassurance to potential donors, matching their interests with local needs. And we run specific campaigns, such as Winter Warmth and Summer Sparks, bringing our community together to address specific local needs.

We’re still hear six years later. After a considerable amount of scepticism, combatted by founder Jeremy Raphaely’s steely persistence, we are now a permanent and much more sustainable feature of local life.

We have raised £2.6M for the local community to date. Last year we were able to support 78 difference groups, financially, but also in kind and by placing skilled volunteers.

There has been a sea change. We have seen individuals and businesses who didn’t “get us” to start with now becoming key collaborators and valuing the role we play in unlocking new resources and new kinds of social capital for the local community.

The lesson is really that relationships take time to grow. Two very positive examples of this over the last year have been Cadogan Estates establishing a new endowment fund in partnership with the Foundation (managed by London Community Foundation) and Harrods becoming a founding partner of our City Bridge Trust supported Business & Community Together programme.

Another key success has been how we have developed a distinctive style for bringing peple together and forging connections that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Whilst Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot, in a similar vein we reach parts of the community – at both ends of the spectrum – that others cannot.

This was recognised by the Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea when leaving an event that we had organised at made.com for over 100 local business and charity leaders. His point was that the Council itself could not have brought such a cross-section of the Borough together in such a way.

What makes our approach distinctive?
A lot goes back to the early days and that gap that we identified between local charities and potential local donors.

The starting point was research to identify what kind of approach would interest potential donors. We have always thought about donors as clients, using language they understand and avoiding what some might consider as “voluntary sector jargon”. Linked to this, we have worked very closely with local charities to help develop and rework their cases for support.

Our 100% model is a challenge, but it came from feedback from potential donors. This is hard to maintain, but feels worth preserving, at least in this current stage.

We give donors the sort of experience that they respond to. This includes charity tours to parts of the Borough they wouldn’t see otherwise, seeing the work of local charities up close. We have also developed a very popular year-round programme of events, often in private homes, that builds a strong sense of community, bringing diverse constituencies across the Borough together very much on equal terms.

Our work is based on relationships, whether this is with individuals, businesses or with our Schools Programme. Another key feature is that it is constantly evolving.

What do we wish we knew when we first started?

  • Don’t ask people for money, build relationships instead.
  • Present people with opportunities.
  • The importance of data. If we knew then what we know now, we would have invested in a strong database and data management system from the outset.
  • Do one thing at a time and build from there.
  • In some respects, ignorance is bliss. It’s better to do something than nothing, even if you then need to revisit and refine how you do something again in the future.

Kensington and Chelsea Foundation website