Businesses and local councils join forces for Lottery funding.
The National Lottery has already raked in over £1.2 billion for economic and social regeneration projects, and expects to raise a further £8 billion over the next six years. British industry could have a substantial influence over how this money is spent. But when KPMG recently surveyed 160 community-minded companies (members of Business in the Community, the Percent Club and the Professional Firms Group), it found that only 12% had so far been involved in applications for Lottery funding.
On the other hand, some two-thirds of these companies wanted to know more. These are businesses which, together, already invest £160 million in the community - in cash, staff and gifts in kind. They accept, with Stephen Serpell, head of community affairs at British Telecommunications (which runs a £16 million corporate community programme, the biggest in Britain), that the health of a business is closely related to the health of the communities in which it operates.
A vital feature of Lottery community projects is the emphasis placed on partnership, not just between business and the voluntary sector but with local and regional authorities which are themselves major investors in their areas. Thus, in Birmingham, the city council, regional universities and a consortium of 23 private businesses (including ICL, GKN, Jaguar Cars and Lloyds/TSB) have put in an application for £50 million of Lottery funding to provide half the total cost of Millennium Point, a major centre for technological education and innovation. Over in Norwich the city and county councils have joined forces with the Norwich Union and KPMG to raise £40 million of Lottery money towards Technopolis, an information technology service to be housed in a landmark building in the city centre with links across the county. 'This will help small businesses to compete, it will help start-ups and it will provide education and reskilling for local people,' says Mike Rayner, IT strategy manager at Norwich Union, who spends two days a month (and countless evenings) working on the project.
At the other end of the scale, Lottery funding could also enable hundreds of small community schemes to get off the ground. To name but one, Comet donated £600 to the Cwmbran Centre for Young People, to finance a feasibility study for a facility for playing rap music. This enabled the group to get £37,000 of Lottery money for a music studio in the community centre.
Aside from cash, and resources such as premises and equipment, companies can usefully apply their skills to the preparation of budgets and business plans for community proposals. 'The emphasis on Lottery awards for capital projects makes these especially important,' argues James Froomberg, Lottery partner at KPMG. Companies might further second staff to project teams and steering groups.
Companies can also put up projects of their own, as national heritage secretary Virginia Bottomley has pointed out, provided these are for the public good and done in partnership. But what sort of project should a company back? Froomberg's advice is to 'run with projects you truly believe in'. For some companies, he suggests, community and marketing objectives may overlap. 'With big projects that take up a lot of time, there's the inevitable question at the board table: Why are we doing this?' The answer 'cause-related marketing' could qwell such doubts.
Others lay less stress on corporate self-interest. Speaking of the businesses supporting the Millennium Point project, former Birmingham city councillor Sir Bernard Zissman observes that: 'Each company has a certain civic pride in Birmingham and the West Midlands and wants to work towards regeneration of the local economy. Some companies may see the erection of a building as an advantage to their sector, but in the main they are not backing the project to enhance sales but for the good of our children.'.