Businesses on our campuses came together to support the tireless work of London’s small charities during the pandemic, demonstrating the power of collaboration.
As Covid kept us physically apart, the shared purpose of supporting local communities united our occupiers and provided them with a reason to remain engaged with their place of work and the wellbeing of those around it.
British Land launched its Campus Community Fund several years ago, with the aim of providing funding for charities and community partnerships in and around our places, focusing on local initiatives that have a positive impact on the communities surrounding our properties.
The past couple of years have proved increasingly difficult for some of our partners; more than 90% of UK charities experienced negative impacts from Covid – as demand for services surged, income plummeted as fundraising came to a halt.
Social sustainability is something both British Land and our customers care passionately about. We have a team of talented individuals within our own business and tenant base who campaign for positive change, and we have ongoing initiatives that contribute to such progress. Yet, the challenges facing some of the communities around our places are bigger than any of us can solve alone.
As Covid hit, we considered how we could pull together to achieve the greatest positive impact through our community funds. We had already been using this system of a charitable initiative with customers at Regent’s Place – together agreeing priorities, pledging funds and awarding grants. This proved successful: more than 1,400 local people benefited in the first year alone. We had always intended to roll out the model across all our campuses. Covid amplified the need for this, while also making it harder.
Our customers rose to the challenge. Within a year of initial discussions, 15 businesses across Broadgate and Paddington Central had pledged £150,000 to community funds, on top of the £200,000 already donated at Regent’s Place in recent years. Facilitating customer and community relationships has proved one of our most powerful contributions; these three-way relationships have led to lasting opportunities. Our customers tell us this approach helps their staff feel more connected to where they work.
Customers from diverse sectors have told us how much they value being part of the community funds. Dentsu International says the Regent’s Place Community Fund enables it to work alongside other businesses to have a greater impact. Facebook says it supports its business goals and benefits employees, bringing the team closer to the local community. New members at Broadgate and Paddington Central are inspired by upcoming projects, which range from art therapy for older local residents to mentoring young refugees.
Agreeing priority themes for these new funds was an important first step to take together. We commissioned research into local needs, which fed into discussions about areas where we could make the biggest difference, such as wellbeing for young people and the elderly, employability and social cohesion.
In awarding grants, we prioritise smaller charities, which attract far less funding that national names. Charities with an income under £1m make up 96% of all charities but only receive 18% of income.
Community funds are a natural extension of our customer networks, where we connect people around shared interests such as mental health, diversity and inclusion. The funds give us a chance to proudly shine a light on community groups and our occupiers doing incredible work behind the scenes. They tangibly demonstrate the benefits of connecting with others as part of life on a British Land campus.
Adonica Simmons is senior community affairs executive at British Land