The launch earlier this year of Barclays New Futures, a £5 million education initiative, was the culmination of a year long review of the Bank’s approach to community affairs. It symbolises the new approach and reflects two of the new management imperatives: seeking a higher profile and encouraging greater staff involvement.
Traditionally the British banks have been among the earliest and most generous corporate donors. The 1980s saw a growth in programmes, with generous charitable donations, strong schools links and an emphasis on enterprise. The more competitive trading environment of the 1990s and changes in the community involvement more widely have provoked a general reassessment – NatWest, for example, also recently completed a fundamental review.
The previous framework had been in place since 1988 when Barclays Community Enterprise department was established. The review started with extensive internal and external consultations. Data from MORI and Opinion Leader Research were assessed, covering not just general public attitudes but also the views of customers. Most notably a series of 26 staff focus groups was assembled to test views in detail, across the whole country and in the various business divisions.
Senior management was also involved, so obtaining views and securing commitment. Indeed the review coincided with an initiative of the chairman, Andrew Buxton, to overhaul the culture of the Bank, leading to the inclusion in the statement of corporate values about making “a contribution to the social and economic well-being of the communities in which we operate”.
Increased local involvement and greater staff participation emerged as key aspects. Education and training came top of issues of concern, with economic regeneration, crime prevention and the environment also featuring strongly.
The community enterprise programme now includes:
a total community support programme of £6.4 million;
central charitable donations of £1.3 million;
staff fundraising pound for pound matching up to £1,000, worth some £200,000 in total;
sponsorship programmes totalling £3.2 million;
devolved spending of £0.7 million for local donations in the business lines;
economic regeneration programme worth £0.5 million.
The Barclays New Futures initiative is significant because it replaces under one banner myriad smaller community sponsorships. Run in collaboration with Community Service Volunteers, it offers £1 million a year in cash and professional support to secondary schools, sixth form colleges and special schools. Projects must not only tackle social or educational issues but do so while enhancing students’ learning and personal development. Each project must include partners from the local community, not employed in the school. Around 120 schools will benefit from the funding for which they must apply on a competitive basis. The judges include Sir Ron Dearing, chairman of the School Curriculum and Assessment Panel, and Trevor McDonald, ITN’s anchorman.
Barclays draws a clear distinction between donations, by which the Bank provides help, and sponsorships which are two-way, giving and also receiving direct benefit. Barclays continues to run an extensive arts sponsorship programme, which is focused on a few substantial commitments with the common theme of extending accessibility to wider audiences. For example, Barclays New Stages, the largest sponsorship to independent theatre and now in its sixth year, supports new productions and a festival in Birmingham at the Royal Court Theatre. Other sponsorships include English Touring Opera, the Young National Trust Theatre and a major exhibition at the National Gallery to celebrate the National Trust’s centenary.
A wide range of existing schemes continue to operate for the time being. These include Barclays Age Resource Action Scheme with Age Concern to get older people involved in community activity, Barclays Community Action Awards with the Community Development Foundation offering funding to local groups and Barclays Youth Action Awards with Youth Clubs UK supporting youth projects.
Likewise in the environment, various schemes are run with conservation bodies such as BTCV, Groundwork and RSPB. These will carry on for this year while being subject to review. The logical outcome will be an umbrella scheme in each area along the lines of Barclays New Futures in education. In common with many companies Barclays receives many funding requests – well over 1,000 centrally each year and more directly to local branches. Establishing awards schemes with clear criteria, standard application forms, closing dates, etc, helps to manage the process. It also provides focus, allowing greater impact and publicity.
Along with a more focused approach and greater attention to publicity came more emphasis on staff involvement. Employee volunteering is being encouraged in four parts of the country with Action: Employees in the Community running how-to-do-it workshops and Community Service Volunteers to providing local involvement opportunities. Staff teams have CAF accounts worth £1,000 to support employee volunteering projects. The employee volunteering programme will be extended further if it takes off well in the initial four areas.
Managing the central programme and providing advice to the whole company is a team of eight staff headed by Sally Shire. More responsibility is being devolved to business lines. Community coordinators, part-time with other responsibilities, have been appointed in the regions and on thirteen sites with more than 500 staff. They have devolved budgets. The economic regeneration budget has been devolved to the business line (mainly to regions) and is channelled through business support agencies.
In summary the review has led to a more business like approach. Monitoring and evaluation of results, in particular is enhanced, although there is more to achieve on staff attitudes and output measures.
Communication tools internally include a bi-monthly magazine, staff video and branch circulars, all of which include community news. Little beyond normal publicity brochures has previously been conducted externally, but Barclays New Futures was advertised in the national press, linking the Barclays brand with community involvement in the mass media. It was also the Bank’s first community sponsorship to be promoted in all its branches.
Barclays has not addressed cause-related marketing yet, although business marketing departments are free to do so if they judge it would be effective. A regular marketing forum brings together community involvement staff with marketing specialists to coordinate a variety of sponsorship activity.
Clearly much remains to be done to bring the new disciplines to bear on the whole programme. As other companies have found, it is a long job to convince sometimes sceptical and hard-pressed line managers of the commercial virtues of community involvement.
Beyond that, an issue which Barclays has addressed is one which Community Affairs Briefing has raised before – the community role of banks as lenders not just donors. Barclays has extensive experience working with small businesses to meet their needs. It has lent over £90 million with government guarantees, the largest such lender. Working through the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, it is able to offer discounted rates because of their better perceived success rate.
The broader question for all banks is how best to apply their commercial skills in meeting community needs more widely. In 1994 the Local Investment Fund was launched, with some support from NatWest, as a first step in the UK of a practice more widespread in America. At the time Barclays did consider getting involved but decided against because the viability was not clearly established.
Are there not ways for the future in which Barclays and other financial institutions could lend to community groups which are capable of earning an income but cannot provide collateral assets or conventional business plans. That would produce leverage in excess of what donations alone can achieve.
Year ended 31st December 1994
Chairman: Andrew Buxton
Main business: financial services including retail and business banking, investment banking through BZW, insurance and card services
Income: £6.9 billion
Profit before tax: £1.9 billion
FT UK Top 500 ranking: 13 (1/1/95)
Charitable donations: £1.8 million (UK only)
Total community contribution: £7.5 million
% of pre-tax profit: 0.4%
Memberships: BITC, ABSA, Per Cent Club
Head of Barclays Community Enterprise: Sally Shire
Address: 54 Lombard Street, London EC3P 3AH
Telephone: 0171 699 5000 (fax: 0171 699 2685)
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 22 – June, 1995