Around 20% of the Foothold community live outside of the UK. Our Services and Development Manager Denice talks about joining the Foothold team and explains her role in supporting our international community members and their families.
I joined Foothold in April 2020 as the Services and Development Manager. I manage and support the team that answers requests for support, financial or otherwise, from our community. My background is in social care project management, so the world of benevolent funds was completely new to me. Let’s just say I had to learn quickly, whilst working remotely with a team I had never met in person! But it allowed us to respond to the many community members contacting Foothold during a global pandemic.
Our international community
As Institution of Engineering and Technology benevolent fund, we serve a community of 168,000 members and their families in 150 countries. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, we have supported over 200 international members with emergency grants to help them through these difficult and challenging times. Many people have been impacted by the restrictions on movement and work situations across the world. So we have provided other support, such as career options and help with anxiety, debt and sleep issues.
Having a higher number of community members contacting us highlighted several questions.
• How can we use the funding to best serve our community?
• How can we ensure we are supporting community members with equity?
• How can we ensure our processes remain robust in changing times and situations?
• How can we reach those most in need?
It seems that other charities have the same questions. I recently attended a Zoom meeting of the Association of Charitable Organisations with 15 members of other funds with international communities. Themes across the group were consistent. We want to support our communities in a way that is transparent, fair, and that keeps charitable funds safe from misuse. We also want to be open and trusting, and treat people as names and not numbers. It was useful to share good practice and celebrate our achievements in supporting our international communities. But it was also good to discuss how to overcome challenges.
Looking at support in a new way
I think the current pandemic has created a real opportunity to re-imagine grant giving across an international community. We can really examine how we reach those that are most in need. And then, figure out how to deliver that support in a clear and life-changing way. I feel passionate about exploring international communities. With the use of Zoom and other remote services, we have more opportunity than ever to have real relationships with people in key countries. The odd international visit would be quite nice too!
At Foothold, we are passionate about treating each person as an individual. So I want to use an approach that humanises our community members. Working in social care has showed me that the best support happens where there is a relationship, rather than treating people as numbers. I carry this approach into my role at Foothold. In a pandemic this becomes harder to deliver, simply due to the numbers of people contacting us for assistance. But it remains one of my core values as a manager.
Starting at Foothold has been an exciting move into a new sector. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last four months getting to know my new colleagues, interacting with community members and starting to get to know my counterparts in other charities.