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The Foothold team

Foothold and the IET

Since our foundation the history of the two organisations has been intertwined and although we are independent charities Foothold and The IET both work to support the world of engineers and engineering.

130 years of supporting people

Foothold was set up to support members of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE). IEE grew and merged with other organisations to become the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Find out more about the history of Foothold and The IET.

On 27 March 1890, the benevolent fund was set up to help members of the IEE. It’s purpose was to help widows and children of members who had died and who were living in poverty.

£20 was the first recorded grant. That’s around £2,500 in today’s money.

An appeal was started for a ‘homes fund’. The appeal received two very generous donations which shaped the future of the organisation and allowed Foothold to become the organisation it is today.

One anonymous member donated his house as a home for “aged, infirm or convalescent members.” The second donation was from Charles Speirs who offered his house and estate which was used to house people returning from the war.

The first conference of Local Honorary Treasurers (now known as Local Representatives) was held and the Fund was formed into an incorporated body. The Governance that was set out in the then Articles of Association provided for a Court of Governors, consisting of 6 members nominated by the Institution (all having been members of the IEE Council) together with 3 members elected by the Members of the Fund.  For many years the Chairmen of the IEE Local Centres (or their nominees) were invited to meetings of the Court of Governors.

As the number of Local Centres (now called Local Networks) grew, so did the Court of Governors, with nearly 50 people meeting 3 times a year.

Market research was carried out with members to ensure the Fund was keeping pace with Members’ needs; it became clear that financial assistance was only one aspect of need, yet many people required a range of other advice and support.

The charity changed its registered company name to The Institution of Engineering and Technology Benevolent Fund, following the merger of the IEE with the IIE, to become the IET.  IET Connect was also established as the trading as name as it was felt that the term benevolent fund could suggest that grants were the only form of assistance available.

An individual employment support programme (outplacement) was introduced to help members who had been made redundant to get back into work. The success of this programme including one-to-one sessions with a career consultant has been immense, and we have supported over 100 people in the last 12 months.

The decision was made to sells Speirs House and a fund was set up to help towards the costs of disability, including care, equipment and support for carers. Anyone who is an engineer or whose partner is an engineer is eligible for support from the Spiers fund. Hundreds of people have been and will continue to be helped with the proceeds.

The charity has grown and developed over the years, with hundreds of people being assisted in different ways. More staff are hired to cover all of the Fund’s roles and responsibilities.

In 2019, the charity welcome Jane Petit as the new CEO. A research project is undertaken to find out how the charity could do more. One of the findings shows that the name IET Connect doesn’t resonate with the audience and the term ‘benevolent fund’ isn’t familiar to people. The charity rebrands to Foothold and begins expanding support to better help people.

When we published our three-year strategy in 2019 following our community members survey, we set out to provide joined-up, accessible and personalised support, build resilience in our engineering community, and develop our supporter base to 200. Here’s how we did:

£5.4m spent for the community | 41,000 services delivered | 2,213 people supported | 60 countries reached

In 2022 we launched our new five-year strategy to 2027, with three strategic objectives:

  1. ENABLE our community to participate in a socially inclusive lifestyle
  2. EMPOWER our community to increase their resilience to life’s challenges
  3. SUSTAIN support for and from our community