In 2012, as part of the Barclays Community Finance Fund, a panel of sector experts chose six innovative projects to fund.
2012 Barclays Community Finance Fund
The projects began in July 2012, below is a summary of what each organisation aims to acheive:
Fredericks Foundation (£46,000)
FredericksFoundation is a Community Development Finance Institution. Based in Guildford, but working across the South of England, it specialises in helping disadvantaged people to set-up or expand a business. They offer a comprehensive range of business support and microloan funding for start-ups and small businesses.
Fredericks needed to make a step-change in its marketing function so that it could reach a greater number, and wider range of people. As it scales up its operations, through establishing regional hubs throughout the UK, Fredericks needs to streamline its training of volunteers to ensure it maintains high quality, consistent support for its clients. In addition, Fredericks wants to ensure accessibility for all applicants. The Barclays Community Finance Fund has awarded the Fredericks Foundation £46,000 to help them achieve these goals.
Firstly, Fredericks will hire a marketing consultant. This will improve its marketing to potential borrowers, prospective funders, and volunteers. The marketing consultant will also develop partnerships and recruiting mechanisms to ensure that Fredericks has sufficient volunteers so that all borrowers have a mentor and loan panels are appropriately staffed.
Secondly, Fredericks will benefit from an upgrade to their ‘back end’ functionality. This will enable applicants to securely store and submit business plans and spreadsheets through their on-line system. This will allow individuals who may not have access to their own computer or the internet to work on their applications remotely as well as store and amend them using public facilities.
Finally the funding will be used to develop and create two videos. One will be for the training of mentors and other volunteers, to ensure consistent training at convenient times and locations. The second video will be aimed at attracting donors and volunteers, this will be done by profiling case studies that show the impact that Fredericks’s work has had on the lives of their clients.
The panel were keen to support the Fredericks Foundation because they saw the great value of the service that they provide and wanted to see the organisation successfully cover a larger area.
Citysave Credit Union (£46,000)
Citysave is a prospering credit union based in Birmingham city centre, founded in 1987 it now serves almost 10,000 members. Welfare reform means that many working age tenants of social landlords will see a change in the amount, and the way in which they are paid, the benefits that support their household. The ending of direct payments to social landlord means that housing providers must be ready to work with their tenants to arrange alternative payment methods.
Citysave will work with seven Registered Social Landlords to create trusted user agreements, allowing the landlords to open accounts with their tenants and thus provide security for both the tenant and the landlord. These accounts will be known as budgeting accounts and will allow users to set aside funds in different ‘pots’, safeguarding money to pay specific bills and clarifying their household budgets. The account can accommodate up to nine household bills to be paid through the service including: rent, council tax, home insurance and TV license. It can also allow a set amount to be saved each month. As money comes into the account, it is sectioned off with the most important bills being paid first.
Citysave have found that within three months of using the account household finances are stabilised, and they are hoping to work with thousands of social housing tenants across the Midlands to help them stabalise their finances.
The account costs £1.50 a week, the cost of which will usually be paid for by the landlord helping them to ensure a steady rental income. The money awarded by the Barclays Community Finance Fund will sponsor a number of smaller, more specialised, housing providers to adopt the scheme in the initial rollout stage. Citysave have been awarded £46,000, and this money will be largely spent on IT requirements and staffing.
The panel recognised the need to begin working on budget accounts that assist tenants to manage their money effectively, they were very excited about the Citysave project which could have such a large impact on the local community.
Liberty Credit Union (£38,500)
Liberty Credit Union was established almost ten years ago, it serves the London Boroughs of Having and Barking and Daganham, and has well over 1000 members; it recently opened a shop front premises in Vicarage Field shopping centre, Barking.
The project will develop a sustainable, replicable accredited apprenticeship programme supported by local Barclays staff. Liberty will recruit six apprentices, each of whom will volunteer for a six month placement. The apprentices will conduct community outreach events, run a marketing campaign and volunteer in the credit union. This will provide Liberty with the ability to run three more outreach services, as well as providing 1500 additional staff hours, which will crucially allow longer opening hours and Saturday opening. This will increase Liberty’s capacity to provide affordable credit.
The apprentices will be chosen from the local community, they will be unemployed and between the ages of 18 and 25. They will undergo intense training, and will all be enrolled on the IFS Certificate in Retail Banking and Conduct, a course which embeds customer service and banking competencies. Liberty will also work very closely with Barclays to enrol the apprentices on elements of their national training programme, as well as linking with their local branch to provide briefing and training.
Liberty were awarded £38,500 to run the project, this will be used to provide staff time to manage the project, as well as supporting the apprentices through the year.
The panel were very excited about the possibility of not only supporting the credit union to grow, but also impacting the lives of six young individuals so profoundly. They hope that the lessons learned by Liberty will be a model for other credit unions in the UK.
London Community Credit Union (£50,000)
London Community Credit Union was founded in 2000, it has over 12,000 members and serves the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
Levels of deprivation in Tower Hamlets and Hackney are amongst the highest in the UK. The squeeze of the recession means that many residents are at risk of falling into unaffordable debt through making ill informed credit choices. London Community Credit Union is able to offer affordable credit solutions, but often people in the local area don’t know about the services they provide.
The aim of the project is to expand the availability of affordable credit through peer to peer marketing and seasonal outreach campaigns. The credit union will work closely with the Bromley-by-Bow Centre, to draw on their expertise of supporting vulnerable local people.
The project will see the recruitment of 15 community champions and 20 workplace champions. The community champions will volunteer up to three days per week, their time will be spend both in the credit union gaining the skills required to work on a counter and doing outreach into the community. They will also deliver credit union awareness training, as well as creating a ‘pop-up bank quiz’ to take to community events. Community Champions will receive accreditation and training aimed at easing their move into fulltime paid employment.
The workplace champions will run one-off lunches in their respective places of work, educating their colleagues about the services the credit union provides, and encouraging them to join.
London Community Credit Union is being given £50,000 by the Barclays Community Finance Fund to run the project. The funds will mainly be spent on recruiting a credit champion leader and credit union outreach advisor.
The panel were pleased to support this project which showed such innovation around marketing. They are hoping that the lessons learned by this project will be useful to organisations across the UK and we wish them the best of luck in making it a success.
Surreysave Credit Union (£19,116)
Surreysave credit union is the youngest organisation to receive funding from the Barclays Community Finance Fund; launched in January 2012, in July 2012 they had just over 200 members. The credit union is based in Woking; it offers affordable loans and competitive returns on savings to individuals living or working in Surrey or Kingston.
Surreysave aims to be as on-line and automated as possible, but their current system for setting up and processing direct debit payments are arduous and time consuming. The Barclays community finance fund has awarded Surreysave £19,116 to purchase an Application Programming Interface and direct debit software. The API will provide the member with an online direct debit mandate which on completion will automatically be submitted to the member’s bank. The direct debit software will allow Surreysave to cut out the contact with the bank entirely and set up automatic calls for payment to BACS. Together these changes will reduce staff time, reduce bank transaction fees, guard against missed file upload deadlines and help the credit union to know immediately if a payment request is returned.
Approximately 2% of credit unions in the UK have automated their direct debit process, and as far as we know no credit unions have online direct debt application forms for their members. These changes will allow the direct debit process to be completely paperless.
The panel were pleased to be able to fund such a sustainable project. The changes that are introduced will continue to reap dividends in the years to come. The panel also wanted to recognise the innovative approach to creating a paperless organisation, knowing that more and more people choose to bank online.
Norfolk Credit Union (£50,000)
Established ten years ago, Norfolk Credit Union operates throughout the county of Norfolk providing services to their 2500 strong membership that improve their economic and social wellbeing.
The credit union currently operates out of a facility provided by South Norfolk Council; this office is now at full capacity and in order for the organisation to continue growing they are seeking an office in Norfolk city centre. The new office will be open full time during normal business hours and, in collaboration with other organisations, will provide services in an ‘after hours surgery’ manner.
The increased space provided by the new office will enable Norfolk Credit Union to run a budgeting account service. The organisation aims to open 100 of these accounts over the twelve months of the project. The accounts will be holistic in nature, working with individuals to create a sustainable personal budget and then incorporating that information into a ‘jam jar style’ account which will help individuals to manage their budget and ensure that primary bills are always paid. The staff at the credit union have learnt that financial education is often not enough to help people to really manage their money, and so they are committed to offering long term intervention and assistance.
The Barclays Community Finance Fund is providing Norfolk Credit Union with £50,000 to run their project. The money will largely be used to staff the new office, as well as providing IT facilities which will allow a connection between the existing and new office.
The panel were extremely pleased to fund the Norfolk Credit Union. They recognised that the organisation is thriving and that in order to expand their services they would benefit hugely from having a city centre outlet. We were also very keen to see the holistic budget account trialled, as this level of support is not offered by many other organisations.