Celebrating Pro Bono Week with Norfolk ProHelp
Norfolk companies have been changing lives through pro bono
Pro Bono Week offers an opportunity to recognise and support the voluntary contribution made by the legal profession across the UK in giving free legal help to those in need. This can have a significant impact, particularly in supporting communities that have been made vulnerable during this difficult time. At Norfolk Community Foundation, we take pride in our ProHelp scheme, which connects businesses to charities for greater impact. This year, we’ve connected over 70 charities and community groups in the county with professional support, ranging from legal advice and accounting to marketing guidance and building work. We caught up with Lauren Birch, Corporate Philanthropy Advisor and lead on Norfolk ProHelp.
How has ProHelp grown in the past year?
ProHelp has grown to over 60 local companies this year, all giving their time and expertise to Norfolk charities and community groups for free. So far in 2023, we have managed to support 80 requests – up from 52 last year. Our members have contributed over £100,000 of free support just in the last 10 months!
How does it make you feel to lead the ProHelp programme?
I am immensely proud to be a small part in coordinating this amazing scheme and have been extremely impressed by the generosity of local business owners and their employees. I have rarely had to turn any requests away as there is always someone willing to step in. Growing the ProHelp membership has obviously helped with this.
What was your highlight this year?
One of my best moments of the year was attending Open Road West’s presentation evening. ProHelp has supported them with several professionals including a Quantity surveyor who helped them to plan a new classroom. The staff and trustees were incredibly grateful for the support, and it has allowed them to know what and how much funding to look for to proceed.
Another win for me was finding a local special educational school a construction company to help create their kitchen garden. I sought out companies who were building in the same area as the school, and approached them directly. They were delighted to give back to the community and are breaking ground over autumn half term!
At Norfolk Community Foundation, we recognize the tremendous benefits that this work brings to local communities, and we are grateful to all Norfolk ProHelp members for their continued support. Here are a few examples of how Norfolk businesses have partnered with nearby community groups to make a positive impact through pro bono work.
Club 99, a charity play scheme which helps to support vulnerable children aged 5-11 and their families during the summer holidays, first approached ProHelp in March 2023. They had been offered a piece of woodland and wanted to erect a log cabin to offer support to more children during the summer holidays in a weatherproof venue. They needed legal support to help them draw up a lease on the land before it work could start. ProHelp member Leathes Prior were able to help them with the lease for free.
Once this stage was completed, Club 99 approached ProHelp again in June asking for some advice on the construction and design of the log cabin, as they needed to add a veranda to a prefabricated building. ProHelp member Hudson Architects stepped in to support. The free support from the ProHelp members will enable this project to go ahead. Without it they would not have been able to pay the professional fees and would have lost out on the opportunity for the land.
Village Orchard East
Village Orchard East, a CIC which provides specialist mental health support for children, young people, adults, and families who are ineligible for mainstream health services, was struggling to reopen after lockdown. The pandemic had affected their income, and they first came to ProHelp in late 2022, when rent increases meant that it was becoming difficult for them to stay at their premises. They received legal support from Spire Solicitors about their current lease, which helped them decide that they had to move.
Another ProHelp member, Larking Gowen, was brought on board to help the organisation improve their financial model and become more sustainable. Further assistance was offered by Saul Humphrey, ProHelp member, to help them look at a potential new premises before signing a full repair lease. Although this premises fell through, they finally found a new premises in July 2023 thanks to ProHelp members Howes Percival.
Without ProHelp support from professional members, Village Orchard East would have struggled to keep their doors open and pay all the professional support they needed to assist with the move. They can now focus on ensuring that they can continue to provide affordable, critical therapy and counselling sessions to those who need them.
Other ways we’ve been engaging businesses for good:
Norfolk Community Foundation has worked with local businesses to deliver support through workshops, seminars and 1:1 advice sessions.
Richard Felton from Felton Fundraising has been delivering extremely popular Fundraising Breakfast events, where he invites 5 charities to a workshop at Norfolk Community Foundation to talk about how to secure grant funding effectively. This advice is invaluable for smaller charities who would otherwise not have the ability to access this sort of professional advice. Kerry from Charity Keeping Abreast, said: “Just WOW! This time was the most valuable time I have ever spent knowing the difference it will make to Keeping Abreast. Within the time, Richard Felton provided a wealth of guidance which was conveyed brilliantly. Just with this initial meeting, I think we can make some real positive changes that are going to have a huge impact on our charity. I want to say a huge thanks to Richard and to you for providing this service which I am sure without this would see a lot more charities struggle to survive.”
Creativity Unbound continue to offer individualised support sessions to charities who want to get to grips with marketing. The team said that “We have spoken to some inspirational people who are passionate and eager to push their organisations forward and feel honoured to be able to share our knowledge for free, knowing that in just half an hour of our time can make a meaningful difference.”
Some organisations, including Handelsbanken and MAD-HR, have offered free webinars to help charities with useful advice on topics like avoiding financial fraud scams and how to recruit and retain staff and volunteers. Local journalist David Powles, former editor of the Eastern Daily Press, also gave a talk to charities about how to tell stories and get them picked up by the papers. Sharing his insider knowledge, David revealed tips that were invaluable – such as the best times to send in press releases, how to tell good stories, and what newspapers are looking to publish right now.