Changing local lives for good in Islington

The Parent House

Although it is home to many affluent families, life in Islington can be tough. Over 47% of children live in poverty and rates of poor mental health are some of the highest in the UK. Life expectancy is lower than the average for rest of the country.

Islington Giving was established in 2010 to change the lives of locals for good.

“It’s a coalition of local funders and businesses working together to catalyse and support place-based work,” says Sarah Benioff, Director of Islington Giving. “Our vision is for Islington to be a place where everyone, regardless of circumstance, has the opportunity and means to live a fulfilled life.”

Founded on the power of partnerships and local knowledge, Islington Giving promotes social mobility, and shines a light on poverty and inequality. It focuses on investing in young people, supporting families and reaching those who are isolated.

“We believe our impact is greatest when we work together as residents, businesses, public agencies, voluntary and community groups, and funders,” Sarah says.


Giving BIG

The Macquarie Group Foundation has been supporting Islington Giving as a grant partner for eight years and in that time over $A1.9 million has been donated through the grant funding and staff fundraising initiatives.

But the figure only tells a fraction of the story.

“Over this time, we’ve found great success collaborating with other funders through organisations such as Islington Giving. Focusing on place-based giving has helped us to better understand the impact of inequality in the community and develop localised solutions,” says Rachel Engel, regional director for the Macquarie Group Foundation in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Initiated by Islington Giving, Macquarie and the East London Business Alliance set up the BIG Alliance (Businesses for Islington Giving) in 2012 – a business-supported employee program that helps tackle poverty, inequality and isolation at a local level. Its community, employability and educational projects focus on improving social mobility across Islington. In the past eight years, BIG Alliance now has 12 corporate members and has placed almost 1,000 volunteers with hundreds of community and non-profit organisations.

One of its key successes has been to establishing business mentoring in all schools in Islington. Macquarie’s involvement with Islington Giving has also seen it become a leading voice in the wider London’s Giving movement. A recent report The Power of People, Place and Partnerships highlighted BIG Alliance as a best practice example of funder collaboration.

BIG Alliance leads the CoRe (Community Resourcing) program. Developed in 2011 by Macquarie, CoRe supports community organisations with operational and strategic challenges.

“The program connects skills, knowledge and expertise from the corporate sector with Islington’s non-profit sector,” says Simar Maghera, an Associate Director at Macquarie in London. “The program pairs non-profit organisations with a team of employees, to transform their capabilities and ensure sustainability.”

Simar worked with three colleagues at The Parent House, a local charity that equips parents and carers of children with valuable skills, support, mentoring and training to enhance their qualifications and employment opportunities.

“We collaborated with the charity to redefine its purpose and provided practical tools to support their operational activities, such as preparing for funding applications.”

Simar attending a CoRe workshop

In 2019, CoRe supported 10 charities, with 43 volunteers providing over 1,500 volunteer hours – worth over £75,000. And since inception in 2011, over 70 charities have been supported by 300+ volunteers, who have dedicated over 5,000 hours of time to support the sustainability of the non-profit sector in Islington.

Recently, due to strong staff support, several of the 2020 CoRe program charities received donations from the Macquarie Group Foundation as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where a $A1 million fund was created for staff-supported non-profits to provide relief for charities affected during the crisis.


The power of community and place-based giving

Since its establishment, Islington Giving has raised over £6 million and grown its grant budget to £800,000 per year – investing in projects that reduce hardship and create opportunities and connections for locals.

Through the help of over 5,000 volunteers it has helped improve the lives of more than 20,000 residents.

“Islington Giving is a wonderful example of local people, charitable organisations and businesses coming together to support their local community and try to tackle inequality through locally-led initiatives,” says Leigh Harrison, Executive Director at Macquarie in London.

Most recently, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Islington Giving created a crisis fund to support locals needing additional support due to the pandemic.

“The generosity of businesses like Macquarie, alongside Islington’s residents and local and national funders, has meant that nearly £400,000 has been raised and given out. Money from this fund has gone straight back out to local organisations we know and trust working in the community with residents who are isolated, anxious and in most need of financial support through this crisis,” says Sarah.

Leigh sits on the Islington Giving Board, providing his expertise to the organisation’s overall strategy, fundraising and grant-making approach, and new initiatives.

Sarah says Macquarie’s part in growing the organisation has been instrumental.

“Macquarie has played an invaluable leadership role in spearheading the development and continuing generous support for the BIG Alliance, both financially and with significant staff time and skills,” Sarah says.

Leigh feels lucky to be able witness the positive impact of the organisation first-hand.

“We need to actively challenge ourselves with respect to social mobility in order to breakdown existing barriers and provide opportunities to a more diverse range of people.  Not only is it the ‘fair thing to do’, but high-performing organisations also benefit from even greater diversity of thought, experience and access to talent.”