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An Interview with Francis Salway, Chairman of The London Community Foundation

This interview first appeared in Rathbones Charity Review Autumn 2013, to see it on their website please click here.

Having managed an award-winning property fund for Standard Life, Francis Salway joined Land Securities, the FTSE 100 property company,  in 2000 and became chief executive in 2004. He stood down in 2012 and now chairs The London Community Foundation (LCF) as well as a housing association in Tunbridge Wells where he lives. He is also a non-executive director of Next and a visiting professor at the LSE.

How did you get involved with community foundations?

I first became involved with community foundations eight years ago through business. As a property company, Land Securities is involved in very large development schemes and occasionally these can seem disconnected from the people that live around them. We wanted to get involved with the local communities at grass roots level; I had  not heard of community foundations before, but they seemed a great way of doing this.

Land Securities has a large site around Ebbsfleet station (on the Eurostar line) which will eventually be developed as 10-12,000 homes for some 20-30,000 people. That’s massive in the context of the neighbouring towns of Dartford and Gravesend, so we wanted to get involved at a community level.

It worked very well, so the company then got involved with the local community foundation in Southwark, where we had another large development project in an area which was characterised by the disparity between new developments fronting the River Thames and some older estates with high levels of deprivation. Again, that worked well and I was so impressed with community foundations that my wife, Sarah, and I set up an endowment, initially in Kent and more recently in London as well. So, I’m an ardent believer in community foundations and that’s largely how my wife and I now manage our charitable giving.

What is special about community foundations?

I think a lot of individuals and companies have a real identity with a place: often donors have been successful in their careers, but know there is another side to the town or city in which they live or work. Community foundations enable you to support more vulnerable people where you live and, for me, to give back locally is both logical and rewarding.

Where community foundations also stand out is their grass roots expertise, which enables them to support small community groups that really understand the issues at the level of a particular estate or area. And there’s real tailoring for donors: at a certain level of giving you can have your own named fund, you can choose the issues you want to support, you can be involved in a selection of the projects that your money supports, and you can meet the people delivering those projects.

A lot of charitable giving is far removed from the coalface, but this is a chance to get really involved. This is as important as the giving to the beneficiaries because everybody is linked in which is unusual. For individual donors, I think the ability to get involved as a family - with your husband or wife or, if you leave a legacy, through your children - is also very appealing.

Why are community foundations successful?

There was a feature in the Evening Standard about the Dispossessed Fund. It featured somebody who had suffered domestic abuse and decided to help other people in similar circumstances. She then began to get involved with young people on an estate. She helped them to get more training, built their confidence to apply for apprenticeships and then into full-time employment.

Helping such projects is exactly the sort of thing that community foundations do incredibly well because wealthy individuals or companies often wouldn’t know where to start to access an individual or group like this – nor how to distinguish between the groups which are effective and those which aren’t.

In my experience, small charities often have an incredibly entrepreneurial feel because, just like those who start small businesses, the people that run these small charities are driven by a passion. They’re lean, fast-moving and effective. They may have a different primary objective, but the same wonderful attributes around making things happen are so evident.

Why is matched funding important?

The Government will give 50% matching to new endowment giving at community foundations across the UK until March 2015. With current marginal tax rates, when you add the tax saving into 50% matching you’ve effectively got very close to a 2-for-1 offer for higher rate tax payers. .

That’s quite an unusual offer – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something for the long term. In London, nearly £4m has been put aside for matching and it needs to be used. But it’s not just London: there are over 50 community foundations, covering virtually every area of the UK.

How do you generate money to give an immediate boost to a project, yet hold some back for the longer term? The way my wife and I have done it is simply giving from income, as we take a very long term perspective. But donors can also give a certain amount by way of endowment and ask the community foundation to use the gift aid earned for immediate giving. Or they can create a fund that is endowed and top that up annually. Both make an immediate impact, backed up by long-term support.

What are the levels required to create your own, bepoke fund?

It varies between community foundations. In London, for immediate giving the level is £25,000 and for endowments it’s £50,000 to have your own fund, named and under your direction.

See the original printed article here.

Published on 27 November 2013

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