Positive partnering with Community Foundation for Surrey

Surrey County Council has worked in creative and proactive ways to develop a strong partnership with the Community Foundation for Surrey (CFS) to ensure resources are used in the best way, duplication is avoided, respective strengths are utilised and ultimately benefits for Surrey’s communities are maximised.

The challenge

Both organisations work hard to support the communities of Surrey.  Each has unique resources, intelligence, insight and strengths, but there were clear areas of overlap and areas where we could better use respective resources. It was seen as important that as well as strengthening partnership, working resources should be used proactively to better align with strategic priorities for the county. There were also a significant amount of dormant trust funds, historically bequeathed to the county council whose objectives had become obsolete that we wanted to bring back in to use. 

The solution

A partnership agreement was established to support each organisation to make a bigger impact together across the system. This led to the following changes and improved ways of working that resulted in real benefits to Surrey’s communities:

  • Both organisations reviewed where we had given grants, what trends were apparent and which priorities these aligned to. We were also able to identify gaps where we would like to increase focus, e.g. Greener Futures.
  • During the pandemic, combining our response and support to the voluntary, community and faith sector ensured more organisations could withstand the impact of COVID-19 and more communities were supported in Surrey. The council contributed £300,000 to the CFS’s Coronavirus Response Fund, which was match-funded through donations from the public, doubling every pound we invested. In total, the CFS raised and distributed over £2.7m in grants, supporting 225 third sector organisations working on the frontline during the pandemic, which benefitted approximately 200,000 vulnerable individuals.
  • The county council ran a Hardship Grant for the third sector as part of our package of support and worked closely with the CFS to ensure we did not duplicate effort in meeting the maximum amount of needs in the voluntary sector which in turn supported more vulnerable or impacted communities.
  • Ongoing agreement to share information about where grants are being awarded to avoid duplication and enhance each other’s capacity and collective impact.
  • SCC and CFS worked together with the charity commission to bring the dormant trusts back into use, transferring approximately £400,000 to CFS by setting up the Surrey Education Fund. This fund has since grown through additional donations and will award grants in perpetuity, while still honouring the original objects of the endowments. 
  • We invested an additional £500,000 in to an existing restricted endowment called the Surrey Community Fund for the county and address the ongoing impacts and recovery from COVID-19. This will be fully match-funded through public donations and the CFS will administer this on behalf of the council, with part of the grants being awarded in perpetuity and others awarded rapidly to meet current needs.
  • Working together to share insights allows us to build trend data, highlight need and decide where to direct support. This data is critical in driving up donations and targeting support to areas of need.

The impact

The impact has been huge. Not only has otherwise dormant money been bought in to use without being expended, but it has been enhanced and will serve the county and support residents forever. By October 2021, the Surrey Education Grant will have awarded £74,000 in grants without taking away what is available going forward.

By investing in Surrey’s communities through the CFS and distributing grants this way, we were able to double the level of support, lead by example and harness philanthropy through businesses and private donations alike.

By ensuring we are linked up, we are able to reduce duplication, increase efficiency and effectiveness, and target unmet need.

How is the new approach being sustained?

We will continue to build on this strong partnership by sharing data, supporting our respective priorities and driving maximum benefit to Surrey’s communities.  In addition, we are exploring innovative ways to enhance the insight we are gathering, such as strengthening the voice of residents and digging deeper into needs and how they influence decisions in funding.

Lessons learned

The most important element is trust, flexibility and shared objectives. We both recognise and respect our collective strengths but have the same goal, to do the best for the residents of Surrey and ensure every pound drives maximum value. Sharing of information and openness is key. If you do one thing after reading this, check what ‘dormant trust funds’ your council holds and start by bringing these back in to use.