Jamie Lewis Fund helps the homeless in Leicester and Leicestershire
For centuries, successful businesses have given money to worthy causes in their area. In the first of a series of stories on county philanthropy, Ian Griffin looks at a scheme which helps to make the most of this goodwill.
For a long period last year, Leicester had the highest number of rough sleepers of any city outside London. That figure, which hit 50, is now down to eight, thanks to the work of charities, supported by local companies.
One of the businesses which has helped make a difference is The Jamie Lewis Fund for Homelessness, managed by the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation, which releases income four times a year to charities tackling homelessness.
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The city firm is an award-winning property developer and student landlord run by Jamie and Lynn Lewis.
Jamie said: “Where better to do our charitable giving as a business than in our local community.
“We’re all too aware people can fall off the ladder through no fault of their own: our fund is a way we can help. And, of course, being able to match donations is a good offer for companies.”
Jamie is referring to the fact the community foundation has secured almost £800,000 Government match-funding in the past few years which has enhanced donations from businesses in the county.
The foundation can match £1 for every £2 donated by companies setting up charitable funds aimed at local causes until 2015.
Lynn said: “We add to the fund when we can. Even when we can’t, it carries on giving anyway – without any extra work on our part. The community foundation ensures the money reaches people who need it.
“It’s much less hassle and expense than a standalone charitable foundation. It really maximises the giving we can do.”
The Jamie Lewis Fund is supporting SHARP, the city homeless group, to provide housing advice and support.
David Brazier, of SHARP, said: “People just don’t know what to do when they face homelessness. We are there to help, and where possible to make sure they don’t become homeless at all. What’s great about the Jamie Lewis Fund is that because it’s invested and generating an income, there’s year on year support for local homelessness. That’s really valuable.”
The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation, a registered charitable company, manages a range of named charitable funds for local companies and individual donors. Clients include Mars, Bobby Dhanjal Wealth Management, Grant Thornton and Comic Relief.
Individuals can also set up personally named and directed funds. They all tackle needs in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.
Donor companies can stipulate both the causes and the areas they want to support. Mars, for instance, gives within a specific radius of its north Leicestershire headquarters and factories.
Katy Green, the community foundation’s chief executive, said: “We treat each client individually. We help each company or individual get the most out of their local giving; both in terms of financial efficiency and how far they want to get involved. Some companies take to opportunity to develop their staff via fundraising or decisions about where the money goes, or meeting beneficiaries. Other companies prefer us to do the legwork, and ensure they just have a report to feed back to customers or shareholders.”
The match offer is in place until 2015 but if not taken up money will start to move back to London by the end of this year.