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Being a Trustee for Islington Giving and Cripplegate Foundation

Our Trustees are integral to the work that we do at Islington Giving and Cripplegate Foundation. This #TrusteesWeek we caught up with two of our board members – Edmund Brandt and Sarah Lee – to learn more about their motivations in becoming a Trustee, their highlights so far, and how they’re making a positive difference during changing times.

What made you initially decide to become a trustee with Cripplegate Foundation?

Edmund: Having worked in the City for 27 years, I am very keen to play my part in addressing the inequality that is on our doorstep. When I worked near Whitecross Street, I saw this for myself. I was also attracted by the size of Cripplegate Foundation’s grant giving. At around £1.5m each year, this is enough funding to make a meaningful difference.

Sarah: I joined Cripplegate Foundation at the end of 2020. I had been working full-time as a lawyer and I was keen to get more involved in local issues and give something back to my community. I’m still a lawyer and consult at the law firm where I was a partner but working with Cripplegate has been a brilliant opportunity.

“I am very keen to play my part in addressing the inequality that is on our doorstep.”

What skills, experience / or insight do you bring to the governing board?

Edmund: I have professional training and experience in investment, which is very useful for a grant giving foundation. I am also good at talking to and listening to people, building a consensus and getting things accomplished.  

Sarah: My practical experience as a lawyer has been useful. I’m used to problem solving and looking at things from different angles. I’m also used to working collaboratively with people from different sectors and from a range of different backgrounds. 

“Visiting some of the projects we help support is wonderfully rewarding.”

Young Grant Makers resident panel, Oct 2022

What have been the highlights of your role as Trustee?

Edmund: Visiting some of the projects we help support is wonderfully rewarding. In June I went to the Shaw Theatre and saw an amazing youth production of Oliver put on by the Daylight Theatre Foundation, one of our grantees. From the very first song, it was obvious that this was a highlight of the term for all the kids taking part. This was a drama production that our funding made possible and made me very proud of our team.  

Sarah: Hearing from some of the projects that we’ve helped support, particularly at board meetings or Islington Giving grant meetings when we have presentations from groups we’ve funded, has been a real highlight. That’s been really satisfying – being able to understand better how we’ve helped support their projects and to hear about the tangible impact of these organisations. 

“That’s been really satisfying – being able to understand better how we’ve helped support their projects and to hear about the tangible impact of these organisations.”

What have been some of the challenges?

Edmund: The biggest challenge right now is the squeeze on grant giving budgets. The need for grants is higher than ever due to the impact of the cost of living crisis on both charities and people in need. But inflation and higher interest rates have also hurt investments, so many trustees are worried about whether it is prudent to maintain spending. This is a key issue where individual trustees can make a positive difference, through their experience and insight. 

Sarah: The biggest challenge is deciding what the priorities are. There’s so much need in the borough and we obviously have limited resources. The challenge is using those resources in the most thoughtful and impactful way. 

“Working with Cripplegate Foundation and Islington Giving for a couple of years has made me more conscious of what goes on beneath the surface of the borough.”

What skills and experience have you taken from being a Trustee back into your professional life?

Edmund: I have learnt that most boards struggle with financial and investment jargon. I have therefore made a conscious effort to speak plain English. Slightly to my surprise, this has been as well received at work as it is at Cripplegate Foundation! 

“Being able to hear personal, individual stories of some of the real challenges that sit behind those statistics has made me much more appreciative of what and where the need is.”

 Sarah: Working with Cripplegate Foundation and Islington Giving for a couple of years has made me more conscious of what goes on beneath the surface of the borough. I think you get a much more detailed perspective than you do just living or working in the borough, as I have for the last 30 years or so. I’m now much more appreciative of the challenges in the borough. In many ways, Islington is a thriving and successful place to live and work but there are clearly huge problems beneath the surface and real pockets of poverty. The statistics speak for themselves. Even before the cost-of-living crisis, for example, 43% of children in the borough were living in poverty and 11,500 families were experiencing fuel poverty. So being able to hear personal, individual stories of some of the real challenges that sit behind those statistics has made me much more appreciative of what and where the need is. 

“The feeling of making a positive difference is a wonderful gift- I would definitely urge others to try it!”

Would you recommend the role of Trustee to others?

Edmund: Being a trustee involves commitment and finding time in a busy diary. If you can do this, it is hugely rewarding. For me the feeling of making a positive difference is a wonderful gift – I would definitely urge others to try it!  

Sarah: Absolutely I think it’s enormously fulfilling, really interesting. I think you learn a lot both from your fellow trustees but also from other people that you’re working with from other organisations. It’s life enhancing to be a trustee. 

You learn a lot both from your fellow trustees but also from other people that you’re working with from other organisations. It’s life enhancing to be a trustee.

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