Practice makes perfect!

I love this time of year, not least because two of my favourite guilty pleasures are about to start. Strictly and the Bake Off! I’m a terrible dancer and an abysmal baker but at this time of year, I become an armchair expert on both. 

I’m not alone in my admiration of people putting themselves to the test – the viewing figures for Strictly peaked at 7.2million during last year’s series. Fake tan and sequins aside, what I love the most is watching how people learn, how they trust the professionals, grow in confidence and lean into the whole process. 

I’ve been at Wiltshire Community Foundation for six years and I love my job. To me, community foundations are like a smooth Foxtrot, full of energy and enthusiasm combined with good controls, smooth transitions and excellent partnerships.

One of the best things about being a member of the UK Community Foundation network is collaboration. As one of 47 community foundations in the UK, we can tap into the expertise that exists across the network, helping to shape best practice in philanthropy advice, grant-making and financial management. 

We also learn from our international community foundation family, many of whom have been in the business of inspiring philanthropy for a lot longer than us. This means that our fundholders and supporters can be assured of a professional and effective response. The community groups we work with can also feel secure in the knowledge that we are always striving to be an accessible, equitable funder. 

There is a great sense of pride across the network in what we are achieving, and we aspire to do even more. But judging by some of the dancing I saw at the last Annual Conference, it will be some time before we are ready for a flash mob!

Practice makes perfect and over the last 48 years, Wiltshire Community Foundation has honed its craft. As the oldest community foundation in the UK (and Europe) we have an extensive knowledge of our county. We make it our business to understand the needs of people who live and work here. We know how difficult it can be to target charitable giving to the greatest effect and we take pride in making this easier and more enjoyable for the donors we work with. 

We care about the local voluntary sector; we strive hard to provide the funding they need, along with advice and support that will hopefully ensure their sustainability, particularly through the turbulent times we currently live in. One of the ways we find out about the needs in our county is through the applications we receive for funding from the micro, small and medium size community groups who apply for funds from our flagship Community Grants programme. 

This week our panel of volunteers awarded £123,748 to 17 community projects, who are aiming to help almost 5,000 local disadvantaged people. The grants awarded will support people as they tackle issues associated with bereavement, chronic pain, disability, domestic violence, poor mental health, homelessness and dementia care. Grants will also help people with low incomes to take part in sports and social experiences including ladies’ football, dodgeball, gardening and horticulture.

The funding for all these projects is only possible because of our wonderful 160 endowment fund holders and our fabulous flow-through funders. When I returned to the office from a week’s annual leave, there was a message waiting for me on the whiteboard. It was a quote by Maya Angelou which says, ‘I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver’. 

My hope is that everyone who gives through their local community foundation, feels that sense of liberation. Together we are changing lives. Connecting people who care with causes that matter feels like winning the glitter ball and undoubtedly deserves a handshake from Paul Hollywood!

Fiona Oliver - Joint Chief Executive - 7th September 2023

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