During Camden Giving's first year we've funded 21 grassroots projects and created partnerships with Camden businesses. Natasha is the Director of Camden Giving, here she talks about the things we've learnt during our first year.
1. Now is a unique moment in Camden's history
Camden has increasing challenges: the poverty gap is widening, the borough is experiencing rapid and considerable development, Camden is one of the loneliest places in the UK and that government cuts are harming charities and the people who use them.
There is a lot of potential to change this, but what we didn't realise a year ago is how much potential and what a strong desire there is from people who live and work here to make a change and to do so in a new way.
We knew that individuals who live in Camden would give to their neighbours, but we didn't realise that people wanted to give without even being asked. We haven't yet launched our first fundraising campaign, but it's always inspiring when people call us out-of-the-blue and say they would like to give their money to others in Camden.
It's been an exciting year discovering that Camden Giving has more potential than realised.
2. We need to make the complex understandable
Whilst it has been a really positive year, we face some complicated challenges in Camden, the combination of isolation and poverty manifests itself in different ways: Children who grow up feeling that they can't achieve jobs at institutions that they see from their bedroom windows and older people who lack social networks.
These challenges are complex, this is one reason people and businesses choose NOT to give money to local causes – it's just too difficult to know where to give. Giving locally provides the donor with a unique opportunity to see the difference they've made through well-placed volunteer opportunities or simply by walking past the youth centre you've donated to on your way home and seeing people happily coming and going.
Our approach to unlocking complex problems is to invest in and support local people and small local organisations that know Camden really well. These people know who lives in Flat 7b and they know if they haven't been seen for a few days at the school gate or social club. Where possible we fund projects that bring people together, sometimes it’s for people who come to Camden for work and people who have lived in Camden all their lives. Our experience of this is that solutions start to pop up when you have a diverse group of people facing a problem.
One reason people have chosen to donate to Camden Giving is that we understand local complexities. We fund brilliant charities that are struggling to get funding and that fill a gap.
3. There aren't 'Goodies' and 'Badies'
A recent report by the Charities Aid Foundation found that the total donated by FTSE 100 companies has fallen 11% in the last year. Whilst this drop in donations is worrying, particularly to people who rely on charities to be funded by this money, it does not represent the full picture.
Businesses are becoming more and more ethical in everything they do, some of this is a response to legislation or consumer pressure, but mainly it's because the people that work for them and buy their services expect it. Given the choice between a retailer that commits to paying Living Wage, or a retailer that donates to a food bank, it is the former that contributes the most to ending poverty in the UK.
The next 12 months will be exciting because we will really start to gain a picture of the impact we are having, this will mean we keep learning new things and we will stay flexible and reactive to the changing needs of businesses and the Camden community.